The Time Has Come for Israel's Top Court Decision, Too Bad It Wasn't Made Before

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The High Court discusses a petition against  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being allowed to form a government while set to stand trial, May 3, 2020

Last December, prior to the Likud primary, we - 67 citizens - submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice. We asked the court to weigh an important issue: Whether the formation of the government can be entrusted to an MK accused of serious crimes of corruption involving moral turpitude. Along with the legal arguments, which we won’t discuss here, we raised a “civilian” argument: All voters, and Likud members in particular, have a right to know - if they want to vote for Benjamin Netanyahu - whether Israeli law will enable him to head the next government.

The court ruled at the time, with the backing of the attorney general, and with regard to additional petitions we submitted, that the issue was theoretical, and suggested that we petition again when Netanyahu was an actual candidate for prime minister.

The group of which I am a member has since expanded and includes members who are signatories to a convention for preserving democracy in the State of Israel. The members of the group, all of them citizens with profound political awareness, are not party activists, and come from all spheres of activity in Israel. In the field of security there are three former Shin Bet security service chiefs, a former head of the Mossad and two former heads of the National Security Council who are active in the group. The majority of them were appointed to their positions by Netanyahu and were his direct subordinates.

They are joined by generals and commanders of select Israel Defense Forces units - the Sayeret Matkal, and the elite units of the Golani and paratroopers brigades, Intelligence Unit 8200 and a chief education officer. Among us there are entrepreneurs, investors, and CEOs of some of the largest and most successful high-tech firms in the country, and employers of thousands of people.

Other group members include scientists and senior physicians, people involved in education and culture, including 17 Israel Prize laureates, six university presidents and leading diplomats and industrialists. We all believe in the right of every citizen to political freedom, and in the right to vote and to be elected to office. We believe in our right to stand before the High Court as a single human tapestry of knowledge, life experience and contributors to the welfare, security and prosperity of the State of Israel.

The time has come for the court to make a decision, and it will be forced to do so under far more difficult conditions than those it confronted when we first submitted our petitions.

The coalition agreement cooked up by Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan head Benny Gantz began with a campaign to destroy democracy in Israel. The court is presently hearing explosive petitions, after the Knesset has already been annihilated. Instead of the Knesset being the main gatekeeper for government activity, it has become a mechanical copy machine, which duplicates decisions issued by a government of 52 ministers and deputy ministers.

The next target of the Gantz-Netanyahu agreement is the destruction of the rule of law in Israel, first and foremost the institution of the High Court. The senior members of Netanyahu’s coterie informed the justices that if they ruled against Netanyahu and/or the coalition agreement - Likud would activate the new override clause hence there would be another election.

The personal incitement campaign against the justices, manufactured by the Netanyahu family, sounds exactly like the personal incitement campaign against the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in which Netanyahu was an active partner. Somewhere in the darkness or on social networks the lone attacker is already lurking, someone like Rabin assassin Yigal Amir, who will “blow his fuse” as a result of the incitement, until he tells himself that perhaps the time has come to assassinate a Supreme Court justice.

The court is now being asked to render a decision beneath the cloud of threats to its existence and personal threats against its justices. We can only imagine what the public, and the court in particular, would have been spared, had the court made its decision in time, about half a year ago.

Whatever the court decides - we will accept its ruling respectfully and submissively. We will also remain faithful to the rule of law, and continue to see a democratic Israel as the only framework that unites all of Israel’s citizens.

Carmi Gillon is a former head of the Shin Bet.

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