Israel’s highest court gave Benjamin Netanyahu the green light to form a new government under a power-sharing deal struck with the Blue and White party, even as he faces trial for a number of serious corruption charges.
The court’s unanimous decision, handed down by 11 justices just before midnight on Wednesday, paves the way for Netanyahu to retain his position as prime minister and form a “national emergency government” in a coalition with Blue and White, avoiding an unprecedented fourth election in a row after a series of ballots ended in deadlock.
While bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges are still pending against Netanyahu, the justices said that they “did not find any legal reason to prevent MK Netanyahu from forming a government,” but added their decision did not “diminish the severity” of the indictments the longtime PM now faces. Netanyahu’s trial is set to begin on May 24. He has denied all wrongdoing.
The court also said it would not interfere with the power-sharing agreement reached last month between the Likud and Blue and White parties, despite finding major legal problems with the deal. The agreement will see Blue and White leader Benny Gantz serve as Defense Minister, and then replace Netanyahu as PM after 18 months, and will divide ministerial portfolios equally between members of both parties.
Though on the campaign trail Gantz long refused to serve in a coalition under a prime minister facing felony charges, he reversed course in April, arguing the Covid-19 crisis made a unity government an urgent priority. The move has incensed many of Gantz’s allies, some of whom split from his party to join the opposition in the 120-member Knesset.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, the primary petitioner requesting a review of Netanyahu’s fitness to serve as PM and the legality of the unity deal, said it could not justify the court’s decision, vowing to organize a protest in Tel Aviv this weekend dubbed “Israel is ashamed.”
Netanyahu and Gantz have set a swearing in ceremony for May 13, before the PM’s trial gets underway, bringing a year of political deadlock and failed coalition-building to an end.
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