Netanyahu Loyalist Compares Israeli Justices to 'Iranian Fanatics' Ahead of Key Hearing

Top court deciding whether PM candidate indicted for corruption can form a coalition is 'a scandal like no other,' says minister, arguing justices' judgement is 'no better than anybody else's'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin at a governmental meeting, in January.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin at a governmental meeting, in January.Credit: Amit Shavi
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Haaretz

An Israeli minister compared the country's judiciary to Iran's "Islamist fanatics" ahead of a court hearing slated for Tuesday on whether Benjamin Netanyahu can be tasked with forming a coalition despite being indicted in three corruption cases.

The mere fact that the High Court of Justice will hold a hearing on the issue "a scandal like no other," Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu loyalist, said in a Facebook post on Monday, adding that it's "frighteningly similar to procedures taking place in Iran."

"Which country do you know of where a small group of people, appointed by a closed circle of friends, decide instead of the people who may run in elections?” Levin wrote. “I know a country like that – Iran. There, a council of Islamist fanatics meets, filters the candidates and decides which may run in ostensibly democratic elections.”

Referring to the three justices expected to hear the petition, Levin said they "think they're the gods of morality and are wiser and more knowledgeable than the people. They assume powers they do not have in order to determine who may contend and who may not."

In a democracy the people decide who shall lead them, not the court, he claimed, adding that the judges should dismiss the petition. “They’re not above us. They’re not above the people,” he wrote.

He also wrote that the justices' judgment is “no better than anybody else’s.”

The petition in question was filed by a group of 67 academics, intellectuals, and security officials following Netanyahu’s indictment on charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust, after the attorney general refused to provide a legal opinion on the matter. The petitioners ask the court to issue a declarative ruling that the task of forming a government cannot be granted to a Knesset member under indictment for crimes involving turpitude.

The Israeli law makes no specific reference to such case.

The sitting justices on the case will be Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, her deputy Hanan Melcer, and Uzi Vogelman.

Ahead of the hearing, the court asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to provide his opinion on the matter of whether a person under indictment may form a government. On Thursday Mendelblit announced that he wouldn’t provide his opinion until the court decided whether it would discuss the principles of the matter or dismiss the case.

Since Mendelblit served the indictments against Netanyahu, he hasn’t provided a personal opinion on the issue of forming a government, but did state that he sees no reason to unseat Netanyahu.

On Sunday Netanyahu said it is wrong for the attorney general to decide who may be a prime minister. In a letter to the court ahead of the hearing, Netanyahu wrote: “It is unthinkable that a single public servant, the attorney-general, however high in rank, will determine for the broad public and its representatives in the legislature who may run the country and who may not.”

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