Netanyahu fate at stake as coalition deal challenged in top court
Israel’s top court on Monday heard challenges to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to secure a governing coalition, with opposition figures arguing a deal on a new unity administration would unlawfully shield him in a corruption trial.
Soraya Ali reports.
Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday (May 4), heard challenges to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bid to secure a governing coalition.
Opposition figures argue that forming a new administration would unlawfully shield him from a corruption trial.
They’ve also challenged Netanyahu’s authority to form a government, given his indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Should the court find against Netanyahu on either front, it would likely trigger a snap election.
That would be the fourth time Israelis are forced back to ballot boxes since April 2019 -- all while the country grapples with the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.
Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz signed an agreement last month to form a unity government, under which they would take turns leading Israel.
Right-wing Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for 18 months before handing the reins to centrist Gantz.
Netanyahu, would then assume the role of "substitute prime minister".
But some analysts say that would exempt him from a law that requires high-level ministers to resign from public office if they are indicted on criminal charges.
The coalition deal also grants Netanyahu influence over important judicial appointments, which critics argue gives the prime minister undue sway over the outcome of his own proceedings.
Netanyahu’s trial is due to open on May 24.
He has denied any wrongdoing and accused political rivals of a “witch-hunt”.
The pact also has support from a majority in parliament.
But several groups, including opposition parties and democracy watchdogs, petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the deal.
Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said that while certain aspects of the deal “raise major difficulties”, there were no grounds to disqualify it.
The Supreme Court is expected to deliver rulings on Thursday (May 7).