Israel’s Supreme Court began a two-day hearing on Sunday to determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been indicted for corruption, will be allowed to form a new government, according to Reuters.
The top court will also hear petitions challenging a coalition deal with his rival-turned-partner Benny Gantz, who is currently speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
“Today we shall hear arguments on the question of bestowing the duty of forming a government on a Knesset member against whom an indictment has been filed,” Chief Justice Esther Hayut said as she opened proceedings on Sunday.
“Tomorrow there will be a hearing on the second issue, regarding the coalition agreement,” she added, sitting at the head of a panel of 11 judges, all wearing face masks in line with coronavirus precautions.
The proceedings on Sunday came after hundreds of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv the previous day to protest against Netanyahu’s recent coalition deal with Gantz.
A ruling against Netanyahu would likely trigger a snap election, the fourth since April 2019, as Israel grapples with the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic as well as its economic fallout.
On April 20, after three general elections and an unprecedented deadlock, all within the course of one year, Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz signed a government coalition agreement.
However, several groups, including opposition parties and democracy watchdogs, have petitioned the country’s highest court to nullify the deal and bar Netanyahu from leading the government, citing the criminal proceedings against him.
Responding to the petition, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said there was no sufficient legal ground to disqualify Netanyahu.
Some Israeli analysts have said the court, cast by Netanyahu loyalists as liberal and interventionist, was unlikely to bar the premier from heading a new government. A ruling is expected to be announced by Thursday.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, was indicted in January on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing in all three cases against him and has said that he is a victim of a political witch-hunt.
Netanyahu’s trial is due to start on May 24.
Source: The Palestine Chronicle