ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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High Court rejects petition seeking Netanyahu ouster over war management, his health

Justices say ex-defense chiefs and others who submitted claim did not give Netanyahu sufficient time to respond, cite previous finding of no conflict of interest

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference on January 18, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference on January 18, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The High Court of Justice rejected a request Sunday from two former army chiefs seeking to have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared unfit to serve and forced to step down in light of what petitioners claimed was a conflict of interest keeping him from focusing on the war in Gaza.

The petition, filed by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz and eight others, argued that Netanyahu was harming Israel’s security by prioritizing personal matters over his management of the war against Hamas in Gaza. In addition, it claimed that the prime minister had failed to disclose the details of a health condition that landed him in the hospital in July.

“The series of actions and omissions that occurred before and after the October 7 massacre shows that the interests and considerations that motivate Netanyahu are ‘personal, narrow, irrelevant and foreign to the interests of the state, the public, the hostages and their families,'” Hebrew daily Haaretz quoted the petition as stating.

The request was rejected outright by High Court justices Noam Sohlberg, David Mintz and Yael Willner, who cited a series of technical issues.

In the written rejection, the justices said the petition had been filed prematurely, just three weeks after petitioners requested Netanyahu respond to their charges, which did not meet the requirement for “sufficient time” to be given for him to examine and respond to the claims.

Former High Court Chief of Justice Esther Hayut and High Court justices arrive for a court hearing in Jerusalem, October 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The petitioners claim that there is an urgency in submitting the petition arising from the prevailing security situation in the country. However, this does not justify such a tight timeframe,” Hebrew news outlet Ynet quoted the justices’ response as stating.

It said the ongoing war made their expectation of a quick reply “unacceptable,” noting that the demand for a “full and detailed health declaration” to be submitted by Netanyahu could not have been completed within the narrow timeframe given by the petition’s signatories.

The court also balked at the petitioners attempt to submit claims against Netanyahu covering disparate issues, saying the petition regarding Netanyahu “involves different arguments on different levels revolving around different infrastructure that establish different remedies and are directed at different respondents.”

The justices also referenced a similar petition that had been previously rejected that had claimed Netanyahu was breaching the conflict of interest agreement that he signed that allows him to govern during his ongoing corruption trial. That petition was rejected, in part because Netanyahu had told the court that he was abiding by the terms of the agreement.

“This determination still stands and is valid,” the justices wrote.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen leaving the Jerusalem District Court, where he listened to the testimony, via video from Brighton, England, of businessman Arnon Milchan in the prime minister’s corruption trial, June 26, 2023 (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL/Flash90)

The coalition then passed legislation stipulating that the power to declare the prime minister incapacitated lies with the government and the Knesset alone, and based only on medical grounds. This legislation, which the Knesset hoped would enter into effect immediately, had its implementation delayed by the High Court in January of this year after it determined that the law had only been passed to personally benefit Netanyahu.

As a result, the legislation will only take effect at the beginning of the next Knesset term after general elections are held.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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