High Court refuses to block Netanyahu as PM after Rivlin picks Gantz

Deputy attorney-general defends placing courts under emergency

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice late Monday night rejected a petition to block Benjamin Netanyahu from eligibility to form a new government in light of the bribery indictment he faces.
The three justice panel of Alex Stein, Noam Sohlberg and Uzi Vogelman rejected the petition based on the fact that at this time President Reuven Rivlin has given Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz the mandate to form a new government.
Due to that decisive fact, the High Court said that there was no need to analyze the deeper legal question about whether Netanyahu could be blocked from forming a new government if Rivlin had wanted to select him.
The petition was filed by lawyer Daphna Holetz-Lechner on behalf of around 70 hi-tech officials who had also filed a similar petition to try to block Netanyahu from running in the March 2 election.
Although the dry law of the Knesset says that a prime minister must resign only once he is convicted and all appeals are exhausted, for decades the High Court has forced all ministers to resign once indicted based on the idea that they can no longer fulfill their duties while maintaining  the public's faith.
Both before the election and now again, the High Court has tried hard to find any intervening factor, such as Gantz being initially selected now for the mandate, to avoid ruling on the controversial substantive legal issue.
Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri publicized a letter response on Monday night defending Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana's decision to place the courts in a state of emergency - a move which delayed Netanyahu's trial from Tuesday until at least May 24.
Ohana has been accused of abusing his power to help Netanyahu avoid his trial and the Attorney-General's Office has been accused of folding under political pressure from holding Netanyahu to account.
Nizri said that coronavirus crisis was unprecedented and that declaring a state of emergency has been a power of justice minister's since 1991 with a process to add to those powers dating back to 2013.
He claimed that the courts themselves wanted to reduce their operations to protect their personnel, though he did not specifically mention Netanyahu's trial.