update deskIsrael News

High Court to hear petition to oust Netanyahu in September

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara has called for the justices to reject the demand.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, July 2, 2023. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, July 2, 2023. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.

A petition calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be removed from office over an alleged conflict of interest will be heard by the High Court of Justice on Sept. 12.

Israel’s Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, agreed last week to hear the petition claiming Netanyahu violated a 2020 agreement to not involve himself in his government’s judicial reform initiative due to his ongoing corruption trial.

Leaders of the parties in Netanyahu’s coalition condemned the court’s move, saying in a joint statement that “an extreme political group led by [former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (res.)] Dan Halutz is trying to oust through a baseless petition an incumbent prime minister who was elected by a huge majority in democratic elections.

“We are shocked by Justice Ruth Ronnen’s decision to hold a hearing on the petition, especially after the Knesset passed a law that precludes the impeachment of an elected prime minister because of baseless claims of the kind that are included in the petition,” they said.

“This is going down a dangerous slope of fatal damage to democracy and the will of the people,” they added. “We and millions of citizens will not accept this, we will not allow it.”

In November 2020, then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit determined that Netanyahu could not involve himself in certain decisions that could impact his criminal cases and therefore create a conflict of interest.

According to Mandelblit’s arrangement, which the High Court upheld in March 2021, Netanyahu could not take part in making appointments to law enforcement agencies, the Supreme Court or the Jerusalem District Court.

Netanyahu also could not influence ministers or officials with authority over issues related to his trial.

This past February, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara told Netanyahu that the conflict of interest deal extended to his involvement in the judicial reform program. The premier strongly objected, referring to it as a “gag order.”

Finally, in a March 23 television address, Netanyahu said he would no longer stand on the sidelines of the judicial reform debate.

“We reached the absurdity that if I had entered this event, as my position requires, they threatened to compel me to take a leave of absence, which would nullify the results of the election and the will of millions of citizens,” he said.

“No more. I am entering the arena. I am laying aside any other consideration, for our people and for our country. I will do everything in my power to find a solution,” Netanyahu said.

The High Court has rejected similar petitions in the past. In March, it rejected one to remove Netanyahu and fined the petitioners, the Israel Democracy Guard, 5,000 shekels (a bit under $1,400).

Baharav-Miara on Sunday submitted her position in a letter to the Supreme Court, calling for the justices to reject outright the latest petition.

“Under the existing circumstances and in this state of affairs, there is no reason to demand that the honorable court intervene and grant the far-reaching remedies requested in this petition, including the termination of the prime minister’s term, nor is there any reason in the letters of the legal adviser to the government [the attorney general’s position in Hebrew] to establish a reason like that,” Baharav-Miara wrote.

The petitioner’s claims “do not lay before the honorable court a factual foundation, certainly not solid and well-founded. What emerges from this is that the petition in its current form remains general, and therefore should be dismissed,” she continued.

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