Chief Justice:
Supreme Court begins hearing Tuesday on Netanyahu's ability to form new government

Court opens hearing on PM's ability to new gov't with pointed questions for petitioners. 'Why does this need court intervention now?'

Arutz Sheva Staff , | updated: 10:06 AM

Supreme Court hearing Tuesday
Supreme Court hearing Tuesday
Hezki Baruch

The Israeli Supreme Court opened its first hearing at just after 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning on a petition challenging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ability to form a new government while under indictment.

As the hearing began, dozens of right-wing protesters gathered outside of the court to demonstrate in support of Netanyahu.

Tuesday's hearing is the first dealing with a petition submitted by a group of 67 former government officials, academics, and other prominent figures.

The petition was drafted by attorney Dafna Holtz-Lechner, and has been endorsed by former Israeli Air Force chief Aviyahu Ben-Nun, former National Security Advisor Uzi Arad, former Shin Bet internal security agency chief Carmi Gillon, former Ben Gurion University president Rivka Carmi, businessman Dov Moran, and playwright Yehoshua Sobol, among others.

During the hearing, chief justice Esther Hayut questioned why the petitioners felt the need to bring the matter to the court ahead of the March 2nd election, adding that she saw no legal basis for preventing Netanyahu from running in the election.

"There is no provision in the law which would bar Netanyahu from running," said Hayut. "The elections are going to be held. Afterwards, the President will need to exercise his authority. There will be a juncture at which the President will need to decide - why rule on this now and not at the next juncture?"

Holtz-Lechner, who submitted the court petition, said it was important to have the Supreme Court rule ahead of the election, so that voters know beforehand whether Netanyahu is legally barred from forming a new government.

"It needs to be decided now, because the train has already left the station - we are in the midst of the election season, and every citizen deserves to know what is the legal situation," said Holtz-Lechner.

"This is the time to make a determination, with the lowest possible damages to [Israeli] society. It is also the best time in terms of protecting the interests of the voter."

Last week, Supreme Court justice Ofer Grosskopf announced that the Court will hold a hearing in the near future on Netanyahu’s ability to form a new government – while under indictment -- after the March 2nd election.

Netanyahu, who currently serves as prime minister at the helm of a caretaker government ahead of the March 2nd Knesset election, faces charges in three separate corruption investigations, including fraud and breach of trust charges in the Case 1000 and 2000 investigations which relate to gives Netanyahu received gifts from businessmen; and bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges in Case 4000, which centers on allegations Netanyahu used his position to speed up regulatory changes beneficial to an Israeli businessman in exchange for better news coverage in an outlet the businessman owns.

The petitioners have argued that while Netanyahu may be able to retain his position as premier for the duration of the caretaker government, he cannot, under indictment, be tasked by the President with forming a new government.

The hearing is being conducted by a three-judge panel led by chief justice Esther Hayut, and includes justices Hanan Melcer and Uzi Vogelman.

Netanyahu expressed optimism Monday, saying in a video statement that he did not believe the Supreme Court would accept the petitioners’ arguments.

"I don't imagine that the Supreme Court of Israel will fall into this trap. In a democracy the one who decides who will lead the people is only the people and not anyone else. That has always been and always will be," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu, who has denied the charges against him, is expected to request parliamentary immunity later this week.