(MENAFN- Jordan Times) OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - The Israeli parliament approved on Thursday legislation restricting grounds for declaring a premier unfit for office, a move the opposition has called a "personal law" that serves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The vote came as Netanyahu's government pushes forward with a divisive judicial reform programme, which critics say threatens Israeli democracy and has sparked mass protest.
Lawmakers voted 61 against 47 to approve an amendment to one of Israel's Basic Laws, the country's quasi-constitution, specifying the necessary conditions to temporarily declare a prime minister unfit for office.
The previous version of the law stated that a premier could be declared incapacitated, but did not specify on what grounds or lay out the necessary steps.
The amended legislation requires a request by the prime minister, or a government vote backed by a three-quarter majority of ministers, and only for mental or physical health reasons.
The law "de facto limits the possibility of declaring a prime minister incapacitated to exercise their functions", said Guy Lurie, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem.
"Reasons other than those specified in the amendment will no longer be admissable," he told AFP.
Some opposition figures and civil society groups have argued for Netanyahu - who returned to office at the helm of a hard-right coalition in December - to be declared unfit to serve, citing corruption charges against him, which he denies.
Former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert had also faced calls to step down over a criminal investigation, and resigned from office in 2009 after police recommended he be indicted for graft.
"While the supreme court had at the time rejected a petition demanding that he be declared incapacitated, it implied that a conflict of interest could be considered as [a reason] for incapacity," Lurie said.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, an anti-corruption NGO, last month lodged a petition with the court aimed at declaring Netanyahu unfit for office, arguing he had a conflict of interest because he is currently on trial.
Recently, the office of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara denied unsubstantiated reports she had wanted to force Netanyahu to resign.
Opposition chief Yair Lapid said on Thursday "the coalition has just adopted a personal law, obscene and corrupt, against an unfounded rumour of impeachment."