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Likud says High Court has no authority to rule on post of alternative PM

Netanyahu’s party argues judges can’t determine whether it was acceptable to change quasi-constitutional Basic Law to create the new office

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem, on July 5, 2020. (Amit Shabi/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem, on July 5, 2020. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

The Likud party on Thursday rejected the authority of the High Court of Justice to weigh the constitutionality of the recently created post of alternate prime minister.

The party was responding to a petition filed at the court against the position, created as part of the coalition agreement with Blue and White.

“The High Court has no authority to interfere with Basic Laws enacted by the Knesset,” the party said in a statement. “Basic Laws give the High Court its authority, and not the other way around. Intervention by the High Court in Basic Laws would turn it into an absolute ruler and has no parallel in the Western world. The Likud Party has outright rejected such an undemocratic idea.”

The coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz included the creation of the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office, which is to be held by Gantz for 18 months before it is transferred to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is on trial for corruption in three cases, including bribery in one of them. Unlike other ministers, a prime minister can remain in their post even after an indictment on criminal charges. This is seen as a leading motivation for Netanyahu in creating the new post.

Illustrative — Supreme Court President Esther Hayut (C) arrives for a petition against the coronavirus restrictions on demonstrations in Jerusalem on October 13, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which filed the petition, argued that the amendment of a quasi-constitutional Basic law to create the new office constituted a “fundamental alteration of the regime system in Israel, which can even be regarded as a change of the ruling system.”

At the time of the coalition agreement earlier in the year, Blue and White feared Netanyahu would not honor the rotation agreement that required him to hand over power to Gantz. Therefore the parties agreed to pass legislation to formally anchor the necessary mechanism, which involved changing Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws. (Since that time, and with Gantz dropping in polls, Likud has indeed appeared intent on avoiding honoring the deal, using a loophole regarding the state budget.)

Likud has warned that any ruling nullifying the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office would unravel the entire coalition deal and drag Israel into new national elections.

View of a Knesset plenary session on August 24, 2020. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Pool)
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