Ousting Netanyahu: First petition filed in Israel’s High Court to force PM out

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel’s appeal is filed due to the severity of the charges and the expected concurrent “drop in public trust” in the justice system.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A well-established government watchdog filed the first petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice Sunday to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation due to the indictments against him in three corruption cases.

The motion made by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel is based on two main factors. One is the fact that the charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud are serious ones.

The other is that, in the words of the motion, “Netanyahu’s severe impediment to his ministerial duties” will cause “a drop in public trust in government authorities, in the propriety of its operation and in its purity.”

Netanyahu already must give up four other posts he currently holds in the caretaker government, as the petition notes that according to a Supreme Court ruling, ministers under indictment must relinquish their positions.

Netanyahu currently holds the Agriculture, Diaspora Affairs, Social Affairs and Health ministries.

Yaakov Litzman, who is the current deputy health minister, has reportedly been given the go-ahead by his party’s Council of Torah Sages to take over Netanyahu’s role in his ministry. Although the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party prefers that its government representatives be more or less in charge of their ministries on a deputy level, Litzman has served in the past as health minister.

The NGO made additional requests, demanding that the court order the government to appoint a deputy prime minister from among the current ministers who could take over the leadership position.

Or, the prime minister should be forced to declare that he is temporarily stepping down from his position according to the guidelines in the Basic Law regarding the government, the NGO said.

As he is being indicted “for the most serious charges a civil servant could receive,” as the NGO’s legal adviser put it, Netanyahu’s current refusal to resign must lead to outside action by the court.

An indictment such as this, “against an incumbent prime minister crosses a red line and severely damages public confidence in the government authorities in the State of Israel,” Tomer Naor said. “The head of an interim government who has not received the confidence of the current Knesset cannot serve under [this] heavy cloud.”

Calling Netanyahu’s desire to stay put “unfair” and “unethical,” the group’s chairman Dr. Eliad Shraga said, “A prime minister under indictment cannot serve for even one minute. He must be allowed to exhaust all possibilities and fight for his innocence as a private person, but it will terrible if the prime minister pulls the whole state into court with him.”

Shraga urged Netanyahu to resign on his own, saying, “It does nothing for his honor or the honor of the State of Israel” for the court to force him in this matter.

More than half the Israeli public – 56 percent – agree with the NGO that Netanyahu must resign, according to a Channel 13 poll published on Friday.