Israel's Supreme Court has heard appeals related to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bid to form a governing coalition, with opposition figures saying the agreement to form a new unity government would protect him from prosecution on corruption charges.
The court’s 11 judges met for a second day after hearing separate arguments on Sunday to protest against allowing Netanyahu to form a government in light of the issuance of indictments against him, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The court’s decision is expected by next Thursday, and if the court’s decision is in favor of Netanyahu, this will lead to early elections for the fourth time since April 2019, at a time when Israel is trying to contain the Corona virus crisis and its economic repercussions.
Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, signed an agreement last month to form a unity government, which will rotate its presidency after previous inconclusive election rounds, and based the signing of the agreement on the Corona crisis.
Alternative Prime Minister
Netanyahu has been in charge of the country for more than a decade, and currently heads a caretaker government. The agreement requires that he serve as prime minister in the unity government for 18 months before handing over to Gantz.
Then Netanyahu takes on the role of "alternative prime minister," which analysts say will excuse him from a law that requires ministers to resign from public office if criminal charges are brought against them.
Netanyahu's trial is scheduled to begin on May 24, he has denied wrongdoing, and has accused his political opponents of persecuting him.
The coalition agreement also gives Netanyahu powers in important judicial appointments, which critics say give the prime minister excessive influence in setting the course of legal procedures that concern him.
The agreement enjoys the support of a majority in parliament, but several groups - including opposition parties and organizations working to protect democracy - sought from the Supreme Court to cancel the agreement on the pretext that it protected Netanyahu from legal punishment.
In response to the demands of these groups, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said that there was no basis to cancel the agreement, although some aspects of it "raise great difficulties."