Stacked deck against Netanyahu? Israel’s High Court selects activist judges to decide his fate, paper says

Israel’s Supreme Court will weigh in on whether Netanyahu can govern under indictment.

By World Israel News Staff

Next Tuesday, the Israeli Supreme Court will decide if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fit to form a government given that he faces indictment in three corruption cases. But the composition of the judges shows that Netanyahu will face a “rigged game,” Israel Hayom reports on Wednesday.

The reason is that the three judges who will preside over the debate are “thought of as particularly activist and liberal” judges, the paper says. The three judges are Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Supreme Court Judges Hanan Melcer and Uzi Fogelman.

Israel Hayom reports that Hayut picked Melcer and Fogelman because they’re activists “who reason like her” and she wants a unanimous decision.

The paper says, in what it describes as “quite unusual,” that the Supreme Court has decided to devote only three judges to the matter – instead of seven, nine or 11 – as it would normally do in dealing with important issues. (Unlike in the U.S. where all nine Supreme Court judges hear a case, in Israel the number can vary.) Israel Hayom also notes that a larger number of judges have sat to hear matters of far less significance.

If the judges decide that Netanyahu can’t form a government, it will be a political “earthquake,” the paper reports.

Critics have said that the judges should not be weighing in on the matter at all as Israeli law is clear – a prime minister can govern under indictment. Only after conviction must the prime minister step down.

The paper describes Supreme Court President Hayut as someone “who doesn’t fear intervening, even in the most sensitive government matters.”

Judge Melcer identifies with the left-wing, having joined the Dash party in 1977, the paper notes.

Judge Fogelman is considered more activist than Melcer, Israel Hayom says. He voted to cancel a law dealing with illegal immigrants and cancelled a decision by Israel’s interior minister to remove the residency status of four eastern Jerusalem inhabitants who were elected to the Palestinian parliament as representatives of Hamas.

According to The Times of Israel, the High Court rejected the paper’s report on Wednesday, calling it “baseless and irresponsible.”

The court said in a statement that the judges were chosen not for their activism but “according to the rules of seniority — the most senior panel sitting in the Supreme Court, (excluding Judge [Neal] Hendel, who is the chairman of the Central Elections Committee.”