Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has slammed a decision by the High Court of Justice to hear a case that will determine his eligibility to form a coalition should he be reelected in the March 2 national vote. “In a democracy, it is the people who decide who will lead them, not anyone else,” Netanyahu said following the court’s announcement that it would rule on a petition arguing that he cannot head the next government due to pending indictments in three criminal cases against him. The prime minister has been accused of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, although it remains unclear when Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will formally submit the charges to the courts. Legal precedent requires Israeli cabinet ministers to resign if indicted for a crime, while a prime minister must resign only once convicted of a crime and out of avenues of appeal, yet there is no law as to whether an indicted prime minister can form a new government. The High Court hearing is slated for December 31 and will be presided over by a three-judge panel that will include Chief Justice Esther Hayut. Netanyahu has repeatedly maintained that he is the subject of a witch hunt and that police and the judiciary have conspired to stage an “attempted coup.” The news marks another twist in Israel’s ongoing political saga and comes ahead of Thursday’s Likud leadership primary. Netanyahu will face off against rival Gideon Sa’ar, who has received public backing from numerous party lawmakers.
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