Netanyahu slated to be longest serving PM, but obstacles wait ahead

In the case that the hearing and/or decision comes early, that could create a major dilemma concerning Netanyahu’s position as prime minister.

By
April 10, 2019 22:53
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife declare victory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife declare victory. (photo credit: ALONI MOR)

 
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With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slated to form the government in the upcoming 21st Knesset, he may become the longest serving Israeli prime minister ever on July 20, 2019.

Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc gained ground over the left-wing bloc in Tuesday's elections, after Blue and White, headed by Benny Gantz, conceded the race on Wednesday night.

Netanyahu’s first term was from 1996 until 1999, when he was defeated by Ehud Barak. His second term began in 2009 and has continued until today.

Former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion still holds the record for longest serving prime minister with 4,872 days in office, while Netanyahu has served 4,772 days to date. But with Netanyahu beginning his 5th term, in only 100 days he could be the longest Israeli serving prime minister.

There are hurdles to overcome, however, which could technically prevent him from reaching the record which is oh so close, although they are very unlikely to rise up in the near future.

In February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intent to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in case 4000 (the Bezeq-Walla Affair), breach of trust in case 1000 (the Illegal Gifts Affair) and breach of trust in case 2000 (the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair).

The hearing is not expected to take place until July and a decision on a final indictment may not arrive until months later. In the case that the hearing and/or decision come earlier though, that could create a major dilemma concerning Netanyahu’s position as prime minister. This could occur in a few different ways.

The main way to depose Netanyahu through legal proceedings would be a no confidence vote. This is the only way which is written in stone in the Israeli Basic law concerning removing a prime minister from office.

A no confidence vote would come only after the High Court convicted Netanyahu of an offense considered as moral turpitude. If this occurs, the decision to remove him from office would be put in the hands of Knesset, which could mean he would remain in office as long as he can gain enough support from a majority of MKs.

The second way that Netanyahu could fall from power would be if the legal system decided to use a precedent, set in the 1993 corruption case of Shas politician Aryeh Deri. The High Court of Justice ruled in that case that if a minister is indicted, then the prime minister must fire him.

In the 1993 case, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin didn’t want to kick out Deri, but, after an appeal to the court, he was forced to.

This precedent could technically be used to force the prime minister to “fire himself,” since a legal decision applying to ministers could just as well have to apply to a prime minister.

Lastly, Netanyahu may resign due to pressure from other parties and the public. Even though this option is relatively unlikely, it is still more likely to become an issue in the near future than the legal proceedings, which could take years.

If an indictment is served, the public could put pressure on politicians to push Netanyahu into resigning and put pressure on Netanyahu himself to offer his resignation.

It seems that unless Netanyahu goes willingly, it will most likely take years for any decision concerning legal proceedings and, even then, the decision may be in his favor.

Until an indictment decision happens, Netanyahu’s fate remains in the hand of the people and politicians, although judging from Tuesday’s elections, the people and the government are ready for Netanyahu to become Israel's longest serving prime minister and continue as such until the legal reckoning day decides his fate.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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