Bat Yam Mayor Lahiani.
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
OMETZ petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday demanding that three
mayors who are under indictment for corruptionrelated charges be dismissed from
The High Court recently removed from office Shlomo Lahiani
(Bat Yam), Yitzhak Rochberger (Ramat Hasharon) and Shimon Gapso (Upper
Nazareth), also on a petition by OMETZ – The Movement for Quality of Government
in Israel. All three of them, however, won reelection on Tuesday.
bizarre scenario is a result of a new precedent the court established that sets
rules on the issues of whether local officials can remain in office while under
indictment for financial crimes, as opposed to violent crimes, and whether such
incumbent officials can run for reelection? At the national level, the law has
been interpreted to require that ministers step down from their posts upon
indictment, as Avigdor Liberman stepped down as foreign minister, but to allow
them to remain in the Knesset and run for reelection until and unless they are
The issue had never been decided at the local level, but the
court said it has the authority to remove mayors such as Lahiani, Rochberger and
Gapso from office (in Lahiani’s case less than two days before
But the High Court added that the Knesset had not given it
the authority to bar such candidates from running for reelection unless they
were first convicted.
OMETZ asked the court for an immediate interim
order freezing the election results and prohibiting any coalition negotiations
until the court ruled on the issue.
The petition argued that even though
the public chose to reelect the three mayors, sometimes the courts must encroach
on the public’s choice in an election to guarantee its right to choose from
noncorrupt candidates in future elections.
OMETZ’s spokesman indicated
that despite the public’s decision to reelect the mayors, the petition had a
real chance and “the court is obligated to intervene.”
candidates have emphasized the part of the High Court’s recent ruling that
allowed them to run for reelection, stressing that the most important principle
was that they were innocent until proven guilty.
The court has left the
door open to refiring the mayors after they won reelection.