Israel’s High Court of Justice was hearing arguments Monday against the legality of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition deal with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, a day after it deliberated on whether the longtime leader could head a government while indicted on serious crimes.
The court’s ruling, expected by the end of the week, will dictate whether Israel breaks out of its prolonged political paralysis with Netanyahu and Gantz joining forces in government, or whether the country is plunged into its fourth consecutive election in just over a year.
The unprecedented live broadcast proceedings are also shaping up as a dramatic climax to Netanyahu’s campaign against the legal establishment, which he claims is persecuting him and his family.
Netanyahu and his allies have long considered the High Court a liberal bastion that overreached its boundaries to meddle in political affairs, accusing it of undermining the will of the people as expressed in national elections. His opponents regard the court as the final safeguard of Israeli democracy that has been under dangerous assault from demagogic populists.
While the coalition deal – creating the largest government in Israel’s history, comprising 36 ministers and 18 deputy ministers – has yet to be formally adopted by the Knesset, if the court rules against any of its core provisions it would prevent the formation of a unity government and lead to new elections.
In addition, the court will hear arguments on the provision in the coalition deal requiring the passage of a modified version of the so-called Norwegian law, which enables ministers to resign from parliament to allow other members on their party’s slate to serve as MKs while also providing ministers the ability to return to the Knesset if they leave their ministry.
“There are clauses in the agreement that both parties do not want,” Netanyahu’s attorney noted. “The two parties together won over half the votes. Any change to the articles of the unity deal may render the entire deal null and void as it was very difficult to reach the deal in the first place.”