Mandelblit to High Court: No Legal Barrier to Netanyahu Serving as Prime Minister
JNS.org – Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told the country’s High Court of Justice on Thursday that in his opinion there is no legal obstacle to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forming a government and serving as Israel’s next premier, despite what he said were significant difficulties raised by the unity deal reached earlier this month between Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz.
The High Court is scheduled to make the final determination on the issue, as well as on changes to the country’s Basic Laws included in the unity deal, following hearings early next week.
On Sunday, the court is set to hear several petitions against the coalition agreement from advocacy groups requesting that the court ban any indicted politician from being allowed to form a new government. Under current Israeli law, while ministers cannot continue to serve while under indictment, prime ministers may continue to serve even after a conviction and until all appeals are exhausted.
If the court finds for the petitioners, the Netanyahu-Gantz deal could fall apart, which would send the country back to elections for the fourth time in a little more than a year.
Likud and Blue and White filed their official responses to the petitions on Tuesday, arguing that the coalition was essentially a political matter, not a legal one, and that the court should not intervene. Blue and White has also asked the court to allow Netanyahu to continue to serve due to the coronavirus crisis and to avoid a fourth round of national elections.
Multiple petitions seeking to terminate Netanyahu on a variety of grounds have been issued since Mandelblit indicted the prime minister in three separate corruption cases in November. The court struck down those petitions on the grounds that it was still unclear whether Netanyahu would be tasked to form the next government. With the unity agreement in place, however, the matter is no longer a theoretical one.
It should be noted that even if the court finds against the petitioners and allows Netanyahu to continue to serve as prime minister, it may still reject specific tenets of the unity deal, that involve Israel’s Basic Laws, which could also potentially lead to the deal unraveling.