Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implied Sunday that the High Court of Justice did not have the authority to rule on a petition which claims that he is ineligible to assemble a government due to a pending indictment against him.
“In a democracy, it is the people who decide who will lead them, not anyone else. Otherwise, it just isn’t democracy,” Netanyahu said in a video posted to social media shortly after the court’s announcement that it would hear the case.
The petition against Netanyahu’s potential reelection comes as the prime minister has been accusing prosecutors, the media, and the judiciary of working together in an effort to bring him down on trumped-up corruption charges.
Last month, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced an indictment against Netanyahu in three corruption cases, which include charges of breach of trust, fraud, and, in the most serious case, bribery.
The court’s decision to rule on the question of Netanyahu’s legal eligibility to stand for office appears set to spark a new round of political skirmishing, and will likely be used by Netanyahu’s campaign to advance his assertion that the legal system is staging an “attempted coup” in a bid to topple the right.
One Likud lawmaker, Netanyahu ally MK Miki Zohar, threatened to weaken the court’s powers in the next Knesset term if it rules Netanyahu ineligible.
“If the High Court issues a scandalous ruling that intervenes in political questions by declaring that Netanyahu is prohibited from forming a government, our answer will be clear and direct,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “1. A supercession clause [allowing the Knesset to overturn the court’s rulings] will be [passed] in all three readings immediately after the next Knesset takes office. 2. The ruling will be canceled forthwith, allowing Netanyahu to form the government.”
This is some pretty hefty stuff here, the US equivalent of Republicans in Congress threatening to pass a law allowing Congress to overrule any Supreme Court decision. Not even the GOP is willing to go that far at this point, but it's painfully clear that Israel's Likud party is ready and willing to install Netanyahu as a populist dictator in order to maintain power.
In an alternate universe where Robert Mueller had the courage to recommend charges for Trump, and that we had a Justice Department willing to prosecute (and a Supreme Court willing to hear the arguments and decide on whether a sitting president could be charged) this is what we would be seeing on the Trump front.
Still, things are coming to a boil in Israel. Should Netanyahu lose the petition and be disqualified, all bets are off as to what happens next. Israel will hold another national election on March 2nd, and who knows where the country will be by then.