High Court to Rule on Whether Indicted PM Can Form Government

israel supreme court
View of the Israeli High Court Building, with the Knesset in the background. (Israeltourism)

A High Court decision to rule on whether a Knesset member can form a government while under criminal indictment has put the Israel judiciary on a fast track for confrontation with the legislative branch.

With elections scheduled for March 2, the Court said on Sunday it will take up the matter “as early as possible,” and ordered Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to submit a formal opinion within 48 hours.

In response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ posted a video in which he decried the Court’s move:

“In a democracy, it is the people who decide who will lead them, not anyone else. Otherwise, it just isn’t democracy,” Netanyahu said.

Chief Justice Esther Hayut will preside over the three-judge panel that will deliberate on it next Tuesday, December 31. The other judges will be Hanan Melczer and Uzi Fogelman.

The court said it had received and approved a petition signed by 67 people seeking a ruling on the matter.

Mandelblit sought to avoid the issue, informing the court on Friday that he would involve himself only if it hears the matter.

MK Miki Zohar, chairman of the Likud Knesset faction, issued a statement of pre-emptive defiance: “If the High Court intervenes on the question of Netanyahu assembling the government, we will enact overriding [of the court] with the start of the next Knesset – and cancel with legislation the decision which prohibits Netanyahu from forming a government.”

However, if the Court does intervene, it would only help Netanyahu’s cause, he said. “If anything can increase the chances of a 61-seat [majority] for the right, this is it,” Zohar said.

Likud MK Gideon Saar, though challenging Netanyhau for the Likud leadership in a primary this week, sided with him on the impropriety of judicial action.

The issue “isn’t a legal one, but a political one, and it’s wrong for the High Court to intervene on this issue. The law is clear,” Saar said.

He then switched back to his campaign theme: “Netanyahu has twice failed to form a government, and it’s not likely he’ll succeed [next time]. A vote for me on Thursday will ensure the establishment of a Likud government and rescue the country from the ongoing crisis.”

Updated Sunday, December 22, 2019 at 1:50 pm add info

Updated Sunday, December 22, 2019 at 3:28 pm add comments