Israeli A-G to Release Legal Opinion on Netanyahu’s Political Future
Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has formed a panel to draft a legal opinion on whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can, hypothetically, head a future government in the wake of last week’s announcement that he will be indicted in three separate corruption cases. The committee, expected to release its decision within days, will evaluate whether Netanyahu must step down once the charges are officially lodged in court or if he can remain in office unless and until convicted and the appeals process is exhausted – a procedure that could take years. It will also determine if the prime minister needs to immediately relinquish his four other ministerial posts, as he currently holds the health, agriculture, social affairs and Diaspora affairs portfolios. According to Israeli law, ministers under indictment must resign, with the exception being the prime minister. According to Israeli media reports, the country’s state attorney does not believe that Netanyahu can begin another term in office with criminal charges hanging over his head. The reports add that the attorney-general is inclined to concur given the “significant legal difficulties” associated with Netanyahu potentially receiving a mandate to form a coalition. Regarding the premiership, the issue could be moot as Netanyahu is expected to seek immunity from prosecution from the Israeli parliament. However, the body that normally decides on such matters has no members due to the ongoing political stalemate. Accordingly, the issue could be pushed back until such time that a new government is formed, which, in the likely event that a third election is held in less than a year, would not be before April 2020 at the earliest. Conceivably, Netanyahu could soon be ousted from his perch atop the Likud party amid reports that he has agreed to hold a snap primary vote. Should someone else become Likud chief before December 11, he or she would have a short window to seek the backing of at least 61 parliamentarians required to form a majority government before a new election could be held.