High Court to Hear Petitions Against Netanyahu-Gantz Unity Government Next Week

Likud and Kahol Lavan call on extended panel of justices not to intervene in political matters

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Israel Supreme Court justice Hanan Melcer (center) and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut (right) during a hearing in 2019.
Israel Supreme Court justice Hanan Melcer (center) and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut (right) during a hearing in 2019. Credit: Ohad Ziegenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The High Court of Justice is set to hear on Sunday and Monday eight petitions filed to it against the coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan, and against allowing a person who is under criminal indictment – as Netanyahu currently is – to form a new government.

Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut announced on Tuesday that 11 out of the court's 15 justices will hear the petitions.

Earlier on Tuesday, Likud and Kahol Lavan submitted their official responses to the petitions, arguing that the High Court must not intervene in political matters.

The court also accepted Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's request to delay the deadline for his response to the petitions. Now Mendelblit, the Knesset and the President’s Office have until 2 P.M. on Thursday to submit their responses.

Apart from President Hayut, the justices that will sit in the extended panel are her deputy, Justice Hanan Melcer, and justices Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman, Isaac Amit, Noam Sohlberg, Daphne Barak-Erez, Menahem Mazuz, Anat Baron, George Karra and David Mintz.

Justices Yosef Elron, Yael Willner, Ofer Grosskopf and Alex Stein, who are the last four to have been appointed to the High Court, will not hear these petitions.

On the issue of whether a person who is under criminal indictment can form a new government, Kahol Lavan wrote that it would be appropriate for the legislature to decide. The Knesset is to deliberate the conditions to determine the suitability of a Knesset member who has been given the role of forming a new government, the party's response claimed, and as of now, the petitions should be denied.

In addition, the petitions should be struck down because the court should not intervene in legislative processes before they have come to an end, said Kahol Lavan. “The court’s intervention in political agreements should be done with great caution,” said the party.

“The very special circumstances that were dictated because of the combination of the coronavirus pandemic, the constitutional crisis and the requirement to heal Israeli society and reunite the ranks after a long period of polarization, required difficult decisions and many compromises that have led to a collision of values,” wrote Kahol Lavan.

The response of Netanyahu and his Likud party to the High Court said that in a democracy, it is the people who decide who will lead them. Hearing the petitions will shatter the principle of separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in a democratic country, their response said.

“There is no place to grant this honorable court … to come in place of the voting public and discuss issues such as these. This is an entirely political matter that needs to be decided only by the public and its representatives in the Knesset.”

As for the formation of a new government by a person under criminal indictment, Likud said that over the years candidates who are under indictment have been elected to the Knesset, and they were allowed to run. Therefore, no justification exists to rule out the ability of a MK to receive the mandate to form a new government from the president, said Likud.

As for the details of the coalition agreement, Likud wrote that “it would be appropriate to mention that this has historically been the position of this honorable court, which saw disagreements on the matter of political agreements as disagreements that are not at all judiciable.

The "Black Flag" protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government corruption, at Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Saturday, April 25, 2020.Credit: Oded Balilty,AP

The coalition agreement, with all its sections and appendixes, meets the standards of the fundamental principles of the State of Israel and the honorable court must not put itself into the political arena and intervene under these circumstances.”

Some 2,000 people participated in the “Black Flag” protest on Saturday night in Tel Aviv against what they called the risk to democracy from the coalition agreement between Gantz and Netanyahu. The protestors, who tried to distance themselves from one another in Rabin Square outside city hall according to Health Ministry regulations, waved Israeli and black flags, along with signs saying: “Send the corrupt home.”

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