Israeli court to hear petitions against Netanyahu forming a government while facing criminal charges

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Israel’s high court is set to begin hearing petitions against Benjamin Netanyahu forming a government while facing criminal indictments.

The proceedings on 3 May, held by a large panel of 11 justices and, in a rare instance, to also be broadcast live, will focus on the issue of whether a politician can form a government while under indictment — something the Israeli legal code does not explicitly prohibit.

If the court voids Netanyahu’s ability to serve as prime minister, Israel could be plunged into political chaos and it would likely trigger the country’s fourth election in just over 12 months.

The high court has become a lightning rod for criticism by Netanyahu and his political allies, who accuse it of over-reach and political interference, while the long-time leader’s opponents consider it a bastion of democracy under dangerous assault.

Pro-democracy demonstrators have been taking to the streets weekly to protest against Netanyahu’s continued rule. Last week, counter-protesters against the court demonstrated against its hearing the petitions against his rule.

A man with a face mask holds a sign
A man holds a sign in front of a poster that reads ‘say no to a corrupt government’ (Ariel Schalit/AP/PA)

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In an unprecedented move, the hearing on 3 May would be broadcast live on the high court’s website while most of the country remains under coronavirus movement restrictions.

Netanyahu was indicted earlier this year on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.

He has denied any wrongdoing. His trial was postponed due to restrictions his hand-picked interim justice minister placed on the courts after the coronavirus crisis erupted and is scheduled to commence later this month.

Last week, Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit said in an opinion to the court that while Netanyahu’s indictments “raise significant problems,” there was no legal basis for barring him from serving while facing criminal charges.

Israeli law mandates that cabinet ministers and mayors resign if indicted, but prime ministers are not specifically required to step down.

In January, the Supreme Court declined to rule on whether Netanyahu could form a government under indictment, saying the matter remained “theoretical” ahead of March’s elections.

On 4 May, the court will address petitions concerning Netanyahu’s power-sharing coalition deal with his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz.

The petitions were filed by advocacy groups that have asked the high court to ban any indicted politician, including Netanyahu, from being allowed to form a new government. They also say that parts of the coalition deal are illegal.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Of course, that Netanyahu can form a government while facing criminal charges leaves a bad tatste; but the question isn’t Netanyahu, or even his Party. It is the ideology, or perhaps better the eschatology, abroad in Israel. If Netanyahu were abducted by aliens tomorrow, and let’s hope he is, there would be another anti-Palestinian racist to take his place. The problem is that opinion (a poor term because it is rather the creation of sensibility, a way of being) has been shaped in Israel to uphold the idea that the Palestine never existed never will, that the whole of Palestine should become a Jewish State, that Arabs are “two-legged beasts” and that Israel can, as Begin put it, “organize the whole world”. Worse is the existence of the “Samson complex”. Advocates of the notion that Israel should behave like a “wild country” that it should go crazy if it does not get its own way are not hard to find. Recall that there is significant evidence that during the 1973 war Israel used the threat of using its nuclear weapons in order to secure conventional arms and support for the US. Here we have a country of some 6 million Jews, armed by the US, able to inflict Armageddon not only on the Middle East but far beyond, which may be willing to sacrifice the human race in order to defend its apartheid regime. Netanyahu may well be a crook, but that hardly matters. What is crucial is that minds are changed in the US and Europe. Is rael must be made to understand that it will not be permitted to act out its fantasies at the cost of the end of the human adventure. Change will not come from within Israel because the distorted thinking is too entrenched. The Palestinians can’t bring it about because they are weak and oppressed. It is the voters in the US and Europe, above all, who must bring the transformation. It can be done. Israel is a cardboard country. It functions only because of US dollars. The flow can be curtailed if US taxpayers decide. They will if they learn the truth. European activists must put maximum pressure on the US at the same time as convincing European voters that declarations from their politicians that they are “Zionists without qualification” is disastrous. European and US voters give their support to democracy and equal rights for all citizens by big margins. They already believe, that is, the Israeli regime needs reform. A consensus can be built. It can be forced on the politicians by the common people. Netanyahus come and go, but the real battle is to build that grassroots movement which will shift the policies of the US and Europe towards Israel. Crucially, that further funding from the US will be dependent on withdrawal from the occupied territories, recognition of the equal rights of non-Jewish citizens of Israel, and equal rights for all citizens of Israel/Palestine. Netanyahu may go to prison, but the task is to free the Palestinians from theirs.

    2. Of course he’ll get off….the Israeli courts are very effective at sending Palestinian children to gaol but mortally terrified of upsetting the elites and their mercenaries.
      But so what? there’s little to choose between him and Gantz. Two butchers. And as for the Israel Labour Party (which JLM and other Labour MPs claim to be is our sister party) is involved in the coalition too.
      All Zionists, all racists.

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