High Court Refuses to Interfere in Netanyahu’s Forming Government

The attempt to remove far-right Benjamin Netanyahu from office with the help of Israeli’s judicial system ended unsuccessfully on Wednesday night, May 6, when the High Court of Justice ruled that the prime minister could still form a government and continue to serve as premier even after having been indicted for corruption in several cases. Netanyahu may eventually be convicted and deposed, however that could take at least three or four years. After 17 months of heading a transitional government and fighting for his political survival, Netanyahu was tasked by President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday to form the next government, which is expected to be announced and sworn in next week.

"Bibi No Way – Go Away!" Anti-Netanyahu activists held a protest on Thursday, May 7, during which they chained themselves to the fence outside the PM's residence in Jerusalem.

“Bibi No Way – Go Away!” Anti-Netanyahu activists held a protest on Thursday, May 7, during which they chained themselves to the fence outside the PM’s residence in Jerusalem. (Photo: Black Flag protest)

Rivlin passed the baton to Netanyahu hours after receiving the signatures of 72 Knesset members endorsing him to lead the government, and hours before a deadline that would have triggered a fourth round of elections. Already in power for over a decade, Netanyahu will now likely be prime minister for at least another 18 months, as he fights charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for which he has been indicted in three separate cases.

Earlier on Thursday, the Knesset passed into law the full legislative package dictated by the coalition deal between the Likud and Blue & White, thus paving the way for Netanyahu to receive a majority of recommendations in parliament to form the next far-right government. The most important part of the legislative package, the premiership rotation bill that amends a quasi-constitutional Basic Law, was approved in its second and third readings by a margin of 72 to 36, with all Joint List lawmakers voting against the bill.

Hadash MK Youssef Jabareen (Joint List), voiced harsh criticism towards the new coalition and the newly adopted bill for a rotational government, saying: “Netanyahu has succeeded in finally eliminating whatever had remained of democracy in Israel. He has hammered the last nail into the coffin of the rule of law by instilling enough fear in the Supreme Court [High Court of Justice] to deter it from interfering. And together with Benny Gantz, an ‘alternate’ candidate, he’s taken away the little power that the opposition still had.” Jabareen’s words appeared in a statement, published on Friday in the Arabic-language Communist daily newspaper Al-Ittihad. The Communist Party of Israel itself warned that the new far-right coalition “poses an obvious threat to peace, equality and democracy.”

Under the coalition agreement, the position of the PM will become rotational. The first half of the term will belong to Netanyahu and Gantz will replace him in the second half. The Movement for Quality of Government in Israel, the organization whose legal challenges against the coalition agreement were unanimously rejected on Wednesday night, once again petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday, only minutes after the Knesset had passed legislation anchoring the unity deal between Blue & White and the Likud into law.