Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be held in contempt of court for violating his conflict of interest agreement over his involvement with the judicial reforms, the High Court of Justice said on Monday.
The High Court rejected a March 26 petition submitted by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel to level the corrective measure to force Netanyahu to comply with the agreement. The court's decision adopted the recommendations of Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara's April 3 opinion.
The application of the contempt of court procedure was deemed by the court as not suitable for the situation, but "everyone must respect court rulings." Baharav-Miara and the court had both called for Netanyahu to abide by the conflict of interest agreement for his corruption trials.
The procedure, which can be used by the court to issue fines or imprison for up to a month, is applied in situations where the court has ruled that there has been a violation of a law, the court explained. Contempt of court is not applied to court decisions on what values or laws are relevant to a situation.
Organized in 2020 by Baharav Miara's predecessor
The conflict of interest agreement had been organized in 2020 by Baharav Miara's predecessor to condition Netanyahu's forming of a government. Then-attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit had been concerned about the ability of the prime minister to appoint law enforcement or judicial officials who could influence his three ongoing trials. The application of the agreement had been affirmed in court in 2021.
The court also noted that Baharav-Miara's opinion on the matter of the conflict of interest agreement was binding.
Baharav-Miara had said in her April opinion that holding someone in contempt of court was a last resort, after other measures had been exhausted.
The petition had been filed two days after the attorney-general's March letter to Netanyahu warning him that his March 23 speech was in violation of his conflict of interest agreement.
MQG said in response to Baharav-Miara's opinion that they were disappointed in her statement to the court, and that she had walked back from her original position.
The NGO had argued that Netanyahu had violated the attorney-general's February 1 directive that his involvement in the judicial reforms would constitute a violation of the conflict of interest agreement. A chief provision of the reform is the alteration of the composition and procedures of the Judicial Selection Committee.
In his speech, Netanyahu had explicitly stated that he was involving himself in the judicial reform. MQG said that this was a flagrant public disregard for the ruling, and that sanctions had to be leveled because his conduct indicated that he would not follow the agreementNetanyahu's legal team had called for the outright rejection of the petition, and that the original conflict of interest agreement had been expanded beyond its initial limits.
The High Court has rejected similar petitions by other NGOs in recent months, some of which called for Netanyahu to be declared unfit for the premiership in response to his violation of the agreement.