Most Coalition Parties Willing to Join a Netanyahu Government Even if He's Indicted

Attorney general expected to decide before April election whether to recommend charging Netanyahu, who will then be entitled to a hearing before a final decision is made

Netanyahu pauses while speaking during an Economic Club of Washington conversation in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.
Bloomberg

Almost all of the parties in the present government coalition are willing to join a new government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the election – even if Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decides to recommend filing an indictment against him. Most of these parties will continue to support Netanyahu even if he is summoned to a pre-indictment hearing.

Mendelblit is expected to decide soon, before the April 9 election, whether to recommend filing a corruption indictment against Netanyahu, who will then be entitled to a hearing before a final decision is made on filing an indictment – but this hearing would only be held after the election. 

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The ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have said they will continue to support Netanyahu as prime minister, even if Mendelblit decides for an indictment. Netanyahu “will continue to be prime minister as far as Shas is concerned as long as the law allows for it,” said Shas leader Interior Minister Arye Dery this week.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said his Kulanu party would stop supporting Netanyahu in such a case. “A prime minister under indictment, after a hearing, cannot function,” said Kahlon in December.

Bennny Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael didn't rule out joining a Netanyahu coalition, but said it would not shuold the prime minister be idicted.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s new party, Hayamin Hehadash, has said they will only make a decision about whether to sit in a coalition with Netanyahu after Mendelblit makes his decision on an indictment – after a hearing. “We will wait for the attorney general’s decision after a hearing and only then will the party’s Knesset members meet and make a decision,” Bennett told the Ynet website. “The law states that the prime minister is not required to resign until after a final verdict, and the rationale is that we want judicial oversight of a decision that can replace the government,” said Bennett.

The positions of opposition parties on the matter is more varied. Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, said this week that he has no problem joining a new Netanyahu government – as long as he has not been convicted of a crime. “The only institution authorized to decide if a person is innocent of guilty is the court,” said Lieberman. “Until the court rules, as far as I’m concerned, Netanyahu is innocent and I don’t see any problem in sitting in his government.”

MK Yair Lapid, the chairman of Yesh Atid, said he could not join a government headed by Netanyahu from the minute a decision was made about an indictment – and even before a hearing was held and a final decision was reached. When Lapid was asked on the “Meet the Press” television show whether he would sit in a government in which the attorney general has recommended indicting the prime minister, even before a hearing, Lapid said he would not.

The rest of the opposition parties: Labor, Hatnuah, Meretz, Joint List and Ta’al, have already ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led government. “Labor chairman Avi Gabbay said on Saturday: “After 10 years, we are not willing to sit in a government headed by Netanyahu, and we are the only ones saying that.”

Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg said: “As opposed to all the other parties, we will not sit with Likud at all. The wonderful thing about Meretz is that this answer is simple and will not confuse anyone.”

MK Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, said: “The question is not whether an indictment is filed or not, but what future the public wants. We, and everyone who wants to advance the alternative of peace, equality justice and cooperation will never sit with Netanyahu.” 

What MK Orli Levi-Abekasis’ Gesher will do is still not clear. The party did not respond to questions from Haaretz on the matter.

Habayit Hayehudi has still not chosen a new chairman to replace Bennett, and the new leader of the Tkuma faction in Habayit Hayehudi, MK Bezalel Smotrich, also did not respond to questions from Haaretz on the matter.