Netanyahu and Bennett
Netanyahu and Bennett Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Wednesday afternoon that he will vote against a bill preventing a criminal defendant from serving as prime minister, a law promoted by several left-wing parties, New Hope and the Joint Arab List.

Bennett said that, "The right to vote and to be elected is sacred and is the essence of democracy. This was and remains my opinion. Although we have seen that there are heavy prices for a criminal defendant sitting in office, those who have to decide whether they are worth paying are the citizens of Israeli."

"All the more-so on the eve of an election - we should not try to change the rules of the game, but let voters decide at the ballot box, and I am convinced they will make the right choice. Therefore I will vote against the law," announced the prime minister.

MK Yuval Steinitz of the Likud attacked the bill and said that "trying to enact a law that would disqualify the head of the opposition in the midst of an election campaign is something that has no parallel in the entire democratic world."

Israel moved closer to new elections Wednesday afternoon, as the Knesset voted unanimously to support a bill dissolving itself.

The bill, introduced by lawmakers from the New Hope and Yesh Atid factions in the coalition, passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset on a 110 to 0 vote.

“Today we are taking Israel on a new path,” said Likud MK Yariv Levin. “We are beginning to get Israel back on track. We are starting down a path that will, in the end, mean the establishment of a strong, stable nationalist government led by Netanyahu, which will restore Israel’s strength and momentum.”

Yet Opposition MKs are not pressing for quick passage of the bill dissolving the Knesset, and are instead looking to push off the final vote, giving the Likud an opportunity to try to form an alternative coalition.

Coalition members are hoping the bill will be brought to a final vote next Monday, dissolving the 24th Knesset and ensuring Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is sworn in as Prime Minister for the transitional government.