What If Sharon Resigns?
Ariel Sharon's term as prime minister expires in 2007; however, Israel's State Attorney, Edna Arbel, recommended on March 28, 2004, that charges be brought against Sharon in the so-called Greek Island affair. The inquiry involves charges that Israeli businessman David Appel paid one of the prime minister's sons $700,000 in the late 1990s to serve as a consultant in the construction of a resort in Greece and the rezoning of land in Tel Aviv in hopes that his father, then foreign minister, would lobby Athens for approval to build the resort. The prime minister denies the charges and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will decide whether to indict Sharon for any alleged crimes.
Sharon insists that he will not resign if he is indicted and that the law does not require him to do so. He could be removed from office in a no-confidence motion supported by 61 members of the Knesset.
Contrary to some reports, Sharon cannot suspend himself. He must either remain in office or resign. If he resigns, Israel's president would have two weeks to appoint a lawmaker from the ruling Likud Party to try to form a new coalition within 42 days. Sharon's successor as party leader and prime minister could either be chosen in Likud primaries or by the party's 7,500-member Central Committee.
If the new candidate is not successful in his bid to establish a government, the president would appoint another member of Knesset to make an attempt, giving him 28 days. If that were unsuccessful, MKs can suggest a third candidate who would get 14 days. After that point, the Knesset would be dissolved and elections held within 90 days.
If the prime minister resigns, he continues to serve as prime minister until a new government is approved. He is also still a member of Knesset. Once a resigned prime minister becomes a rank-and-file MK, he can be suspended from his Knesset seat by a decision of the Knesset House Committee if he has been indicted for an alleged crime. The suspension would be in effect until the verdict is final. Under Basic Law: The Government, the prime minister can be forced out of office only after a verdict is issued convicting him of a crime of moral turpitude. If the Knesset does not initiate the proceedings to remove him or decides against the move, the prime minister would automatically be removed when such a verdict becomes final.
Sources: AP; USA Today, Jerusalem Post, (March 29, 2004)