Netanyahu Will Not Need to Step Down if He's Indicted, Israeli Justice Minister Says

Current law does not say prime ministers must resign, though minister do; 'we should wait and see,' Justice Minister Shaked says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in Israel's Knesset. Shaked says Netanyahu may not have to quit if he's indicted
Moti Milrod

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be forced to quit if an indictment is filed against him, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday.

Talking with a local news site, Shaked said that if an indictment is filed, its details will have to be examined, and that only extremely serious acts would warrant breaking up his government.

"Firstly, according to the law, the prime minister does not need to step down [if an indictment is filed against him], so let's wait and see what happens," Shaked told Ynet. "It needs to be something extremely far reaching to topple to government over, going to elections is not some small thing," she added.

The law regarding disbanding an existing government does not directly address the scenario in which an indictment is filed against a serving prime minister. According to the Basic Law of Government, like ministers, the prime minister will be forced to step down only if he is convicted of a crime that carries moral turpitude. The law also includes two seemingly different clauses related to the issue.

In 1993, the High Court of Justice dealt with the case of Arye Dery, now interior minister, and his deputy, who were then facing serious criminal allegations. Dery, Israel's interior minister at the time, was eventually convicted and served jail time for offenses committed for while holding the same portfolio he currently holds. According to a ruling handed down at the time, the prime minister must remove a minister if a serious indictment has been lodged against him.

However, the ruling about Dery does not have legal bearing for the prime minister, though it could be claimed that if ministers cannot serve with an indictment pending against them because it harms public confidence in the government, the same should be true for a prime minister.

Nonetheless, it is hard to know how the top court will do if an indictment is filed against Netanyahu and he does not quit of his own accord and it is contingent on the recommendations of the attorney general.