Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment on corruption charges does not disqualify him from forming a government, Israel’s top court has said, paving the way for the veteran leader to remain in power.
In its ruling against opposition petitioners on Wednesday, the Supreme Court also found that Netanyahu’s unity government deal with his election rival Benny Gantz does not violate the law, dismissing arguments that it unlawfully shields him in a corruption trial.
A group of non-profit advocacy organisations had challenged the legality of the deal.
“We did not find any legal reason to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government,” the court said.
In a hearing this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments from eight petitioners seeking to block the deal, including former Gantz ally Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party.
Netanyahu and Gantz declared that they hope to swear in the new government on May 13.
The alliance formed last month between the right-wing incumbent and his centrist challenger followed three inconclusive elections in less than a year.
Under the three-year deal, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months, with Gantz as his alternate, a new position in Israeli governance.
They will swap roles midway through the deal, with cabinet positions split between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White alliance, as well as their respective allies.
Legislators began voting on various bills on Wednesday to enact the coalition deal, with individual votes scheduled on each of the roughly 1,000 amendments proposed by the deal’s opponents. A definitive outcome is not expected until Thursday.
The coalition appears to have the 61 votes needed in the 120-seat parliament for approval.
The deal could offer Israel rare political stability as it seeks to repair the economic damage wrought by the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 16,000 people in the country.