Israel’s supreme court hears petition on whether Netanyahu is fit to form government

Israel’s High Court held a hearing on whether to hear a petition on Netanyahu’s legal fitness to form a government given corruption charges hanging over his head.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s Supreme Court opened its hearing at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday to debate whether it should weigh in on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fitness to form a government.

The hearing focused on the matter of whether the court should hear the petition brought against Netanyahu (facing three separate corruption cases) and not on the petition itself. From initial comments by the three-judge panel, it appeared that they would decide not to hear the petition.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said at the start, “I want to start by saying that this is an issue we are discussing in the preliminary. Is the court supposed to discuss and decide the substantive questions that are being discussed here?”

“There is no provision in the law which would bar Netanyahu from running,” Hayut said. “The elections are going to be held. Afterwards, the president will need to exercise his authority. There will be a juncture at which the president will need to decide – why rule on this now and not at the next juncture?”

Dafna Holtz-Lechner, the attorney who drafted the petition against Netanyahu on behalf of 67 prominent Israelis, including former senior security officials, academics, and high-tech executives, argued that the court needed to rule ahead of the election so that voters would know whether Netanyahu would be allowed to form a government.

“It needs to be decided now, because the train has already left the station – we are in the midst of the election season, and every citizen deserves to know what is the legal situation,” Holtz-Lechner said.

However, the other justices sitting on the panel, Hanan Melcer and Uzi Fogelman, appeared to side with Hayut that weighing in on the matter before the elections was premature.

Fogelman asked Holtz-Lechner if she had an example, in the 70 years of the court’s history, where it had heard a case before the president’s “authority was exercised.”

Holtz-Lechner said she had not, but cited an academic article by former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.

“With due respect to justice Barak, that is not a constitutional source,” Melcer said.

Netanyahu posted to Twitter on Monday his opposition to the idea that the court would rule out his candidacy.

“There are those who are trying to drag the Supreme Court into politics to legally deny and thwart my candidacy for prime minister. I do not think that the Supreme Court of Israel will fall into this trap. In a democracy, the nation decides who will lead the people – only the people and no one else. It always has been thus and always will be,” he said.