NGO appeal to High Court: declare Netanyahu unfit to serve as PM

On Israeli NGO is pushing for Netanyahu to be dismissed from his post as Prime Minister.

 Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media at the Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem on November 23, 2022. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media at the Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem on November 23, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

An NGO called "The Israeli Democracy Guard" filed an appeal to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday calling on the court to force the government and Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara to announce that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "legally incapacitated" to serve in his position due to conflicts of interest stemming from his corruption trials and the proposed judicial reforms, and therefore must step down.

The proposed judicial reforms weaken the judicial system and "there was a heavy and real concern" that there was a "direct link between the government's plans" and Netanyahu's criminal trial, and that "a central purpose of the plan is to assist him to evade receiving judgement for his crimes," the NGO argued.

The prime minister is currently standing trial for one count of bribery and two counts of fraud and breach of trust.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin said in the Knesset last week that Netanyahu's three cases had "increased the public's understanding of the necessity of the reform." This proved that the prime minister's trials and the reform were connected, the NGO added.

Baharav-Miara responds

The appeal came after Baharav-Miara wrote on Monday night in response to a letter from the heads of all of the coalition parties that contrary to reports in the media, she had not held discussions on the matter of declaring Netanyahu incapacitated to serve as prime minister.

 Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem on January 22, 2023. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem on January 22, 2023. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

In the letter, the coalition leaders urged Baharav-Miara to not try any "illegal attempts at removing" the prime minister, as they wrote, and "toppling a legally-elected government without even a hint of legal basis to stand on."

No "legal tricks" will stand in the way of the people's will, the coalition leaders wrote, adding that "this is a given" in developed countries. "Most Israeli citizens voted for the coalition factions and the prime minister only a few months ago...the Knesset, as the people's representative, gives its confidence in the government and the prime minister.

"Therefore, nobody has the authority to dismiss the prime minister and topple a legal government except for the people and its representatives, as explicitly stated in Israeli law," the letter reads.

"Any other ruling [by the judicial echelon] is clearly illegal," the coalition leaders asserted.

"Most Israeli citizens voted for the coalition factions and the prime minister only a few months ago...the Knesset, as the people's representative, gives its confidence in the government and the prime minister.

Excerpt from letter from coalition party leaders

The letter was signed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), Arye Deri (Shas), Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionists Party), National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit), Yitzhak Goldknopf (United Torah Judaism) and Avi Maoz (Noam).

Michael Starr also contributed to this report.