On December 12th, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could retain his post “for the time-being,” rejecting a petition calling for him to resign.
A separate petition for him to vacate the post was also filed, and the High Court of Justice hasn’t ruled on it yet.
The petition that was rejected was filed by the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel.
They wanted Netanyahu fired for the following reasons:
- He was incompetent;
- As a transitional prime minister, the indictment against him obligated him to resign;
- He was prohibited from forming a new government.
The petition argued that a sitting Prime Minister would also potentially have to resign, if he were indicted, as Netanyahu was on November 21st. And he was in a weaker position, since he had no government to hold.
The argument was resisted by the person who indicted Netanyahu – Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
Mandelblit rejected the arguments about incompetence and about Netanyahu being weaker as a transitional prime minister. The issue if whether he could form a government was theoretical, in Mandelblit’s opinion.
He explained that until Netanyahu had 61 members of parliament supporting him, no legal analysis needed to be performed.
High Court Justices Noam Sohlberg, George Kara and Yosef Elron endorsed Mandelblit’s views.
A separate petition was later filed by hi-tech sector officials demanding that Mandelblit explain whether Netanyahu’s ability to form a government needs to be decided now that third elections are set. This was in order to know if there were limits on Netanyahu when the time came for citizens to vote.
On December 11th, the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, dissolved and set the date for new elections on March 2nd. This is a precedent, having 3 general elections within 11 months.
That vote brought to an official close attempts by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to assemble a coalition following the September election.
Talks between Netanyahu and Gantz, leaders of the two-largest parties, on a unity arrangement broke down with both sides trading blame.
Over the past 21 days, lawmakers also had the opportunity to nominate any MK for a shot at forming a government by gathering 61 signatures. No candidate was even nominated.
Netanyahu will be campaigning in the upcoming election in the shadow of the criminal charges against him in three corruption probes.
He also faces an internal leadership challenge by Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar in an upcoming party primary.
A Tuesday poll showed Blue and White increasing its lead over Likud, expanding its current one-seat advantage to a four-seat lead — 37 seats to Likud’s 33 in the 120-seat parliament.
The poll predicted Likud falling even further if the party drops Netanyahu in favor of his main challenger, Sa’ar.
When asked who they blamed for the expected third election, 41 percent of respondents blamed Netanyahu, followed by Yisrael Beytenu leader Liberman at 26%, and Gantz at 5%.
Thus, the election campaign begins anew in Israel.
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