Israeli Supreme Court rejects petition to block Netanyahu… for now

The court held that it could not rule on the petition as Netanyahu has not yet been tasked with forming a government, but left open the possibility of hearing such a petition in the future.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Following President Reuven Rivlin’s decision on Sunday not to extend Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz’s mandate to assemble a coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu’s detractors petitioned the Supreme Court to deny the prime minister the opportunity to form a government.

The petition argued that a prime minister facing indictment should not be allowed to serve. According to Israeli law, it is permitted.

On Sunday, the High Court held that it could not rule on the petition because Rivlin has not yet tasked Netanyahu with forming a coalition, making any decision at this stage premature. It’s the third time the court has rejected such a petition.

The court added that the petition can be refiled if Rivlin hands the mandate to Netanyahu. That’s what worries Netanyahu.

Hebrew media reported on Sunday night that Netanyahu demanded that a provision be included in the unity talks for an override clause that would give the parliament power to reverse any High Court ruling preventing him from serving as prime minister.

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It supports earlier rumors that the talks were held up less because of judicial appointments, as had been reported, but because of Netanyahu’s fear that the moment he inked a deal with Gantz he’d be ejected by the Supreme Court.

The group behind the petition, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, also petitioned the High Court a day after the Likud party made a strong showing in Israel’s March election. It requested that the Supreme Court disqualify Netanyahu from serving as prime minister based on the corruption charges levied against him.

The Supreme Court rejected the petition because it was filed before all the votes were tallied.

In January, the same group asked the Supreme Court to force Netanyahu to resign based on the same premise.

The Supreme Court rejected the petition at that time, deeming it “theoretical and premature.”

Meanwhile, the Likud party is pressuring Rivlin to hand over the mandate to  Netanyahu after the president announced he would not give Gantz any more time to form a government.

“The Likud movement again asks Rivlin to transfer the mandate to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the head of the largest party in the Knesset with 59 recommendations, just as President Rivlin acted after the previous elections in September, when he transferred the mandate from Prime Minister Netanyahu to MK Gantz,” the party said in a statement on Sunday.

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Netanyahu’s position has strengthened in recent weeks, thanks to the breakup of Blue and White, a recent defector to his side and good marks from the public for his handling of the corona crisis.