Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday said he does not support a petition demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be removed from his position amid his ongoing criminal charges.
“The totality of current facts does not, currently, establish a reason for a judicial decision according to which the prime minister cannot fulfill his duty,” Mandelblit wrote in a statement to Israel’s top court.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel demanded Netanyahu be removed from his position, as his ongoing trial makes him “physically and functionally” absent, preventing him from fulfilling his role, the organization said.
Mandelblit said that Netanyahu’s occasional presence in the Jerusalem District Court for his trial does not constitute make him physically absent from his prime ministerial position.
Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu responded to the petition, saying that the AG should not be given such far-reaching powers.
“The attorney general holds a position not elected by the public, there is no possibility or logic to give him far-reaching powers of removing an incumbent prime minister,” Netanyahu wrote in the statement.
The Supreme Court petition also demanded the attorney general order the government to appoint ministers on a permanent basis, including a justice minister.
Israel has been without a justice minister since early this month after Benny Gantz’s maximal three-month term as acting justice minister expired. Netanyahu can’t take the post for himself since he is a criminal defendant, and has blocked attempts to approve another candidate.
The petitioners said Netanyahu is acting against the public interest “by not allowing the appointment of a justice minister and a state attorney, and by not allowing the passing of a national budget.”
The government has not passed an updated budget law since 2018.
Demonstrators have been holding regular protests for months against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police, and prosecutors to remove him from office.