State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has argued in internal Justice Ministry discussions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot legally be tasked with forming a government while under indictment, the Globes newspaper reported on Thursday, citing unnamed officials.
According to Globes, Nitzan believes that even if Netanyahu is not legally required to vacate his post, as in the case of a minister under indictment, he cannot begin a new term with the charges hanging over him.
According to a senior ministry official quoted by the paper, this approach is grounded in previous High Court of Justice rulings. President Reuven Rivlin is required to take the indictment against Netanyahu into account and, as such, cannot task Netanyahu with a mandate to form a government, officials reportedly believe.
The state prosecution told the newspaper in response that Nitzan “has not yet been required to address this question and has not formulated a position.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday that Netanyahu will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, including bribery in the far-reaching Bezeq corruption probe. The decision marks the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister faces criminal charges, casting a heavy shadow over Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, and his ongoing attempts to remain in power.
Ehud Olmert, the country’s first former premier to serve prison time, stepped down from office in 2008 during the investigation into him, but before the intention to file charges was announced. He served 16 months in prison on corruption offenses and was released in July 2017.
Rivlin on Thursday handed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein formal notice that Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a government had ended, after the Blue and White party leader conceded failure in the task a day earlier. For the first time in Israel’s history, the mandate to form a governing coalition is now in the hands of the Knesset. If 60 lawmakers sign their support for a fellow MK to form a coalition within the next 21 days, that person will be tasked with doing so and get 14 days to swear in a government. If not, the country goes to the polls once again.
Thursday’s announcement prompted numerous calls for Netanyahu’s resignation from the center and left.