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Wednesday, January 01, 2020 

Supreme court appears to be backing away from undermining Netanyahu

It looks like the uproar over Avichai Mandelblit's intention to indict Netanyahu over petty issues has paid off, and he too seems to be backing away so far. The Jerusalem Post reported on what happened at a hearing to discuss the prime minister's eligibility to form a coalition post-election:
A hearing was held before the High Court of Justice on Tuesday morning to discuss a petition asking that the court rule that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, cannot form the next government. The hearing ended with no immediate decision.

Although the High Court announced that it would decide on the matter at a later point, the overall feel of the justices’ questions to the lawyers was that they would very much prefer to stay out of the issue. [...]

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had made it clear before the hearing that he is not interested in personally being the hand that forces Netanyahu out of office.

He has made legal arguments protecting Netanyahu from being forced out on multiple legal grounds of attack, while postponing indefinitely analyzing whether the prime minister can form a new government now that he has been indicted for bribery.

Mandelblit has ruled that the issue can be kicked down the road because it is only theoretical.

Until Netanyahu is actually in a position in which he has the support of 61 MKs – something that may never happen, and in any event is more than three months away given that a third election is imminent – Mandelblit said that there is no reason to rule on it.
It certainly looks so far like they've taken notice of public reaction to what transpired in the past month or so, and realize it would actually harm their own image and help Netanyahu more. This is thankful news. A columnist for the Post said:
Attacks on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and the High Court of Justice have worked their magic. We may never know what Mandelblit and the High Court really think about whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is eligible to form the next government, as they probably will never tell us.

Some will be overjoyed by the result. They will say that Mandelblit and the High Court get involved in too many issues beyond their purview and that whoever leads the nation should be left to the will of the voters.

They might be right. Maybe the High Court should not force a prime minister to resign, leaving such issues to the voters, and maybe Netanyahu is innocent of the charges against him.

But what was striking about Tuesday’s hearing before the High Court was that neither the Attorney-General’s Office nor the High Court justices appeared interested in those fateful issues that will shape the nation’s future.

Rather, they were interested in esoteric and formalistic legal arguments about timing, jurisdiction and procedure.

Mandelblit has taken the position that until he must rule on whether Netanyahu is eligible to govern, he would prefer not to. Translation: He is really hoping Netanyahu does not get the support of 61 MKs after March 2 so he never has to give an opinion.

Although the High Court sort of flirted three times over recent weeks, and even Tuesday, with trying to get Mandelblit to reveal his position, they seem to have picked up on his bottom-line message: “Let’s stay out of this” more than anything else.
Based on the startling contempt Mandelblit put on display, and all he did to undermine the government so far, it won't be shocking if it turns out he intends to vote for Benny Gantz's farce of a party to boot. For now, if anything's apparent:
Although it was never 100% clear in the attorney-general’s legal briefs, and it took around 90 minutes of arguments on Tuesday to clarify, the real reason finally became clear as day.

Mandelblit is terrified of the consequences for his office if he intervenes.

A lawyer from his office talked to the High Court on Tuesday about the intensity of public attacks on the High Court over the last week for even daring to hear the issue of Netanyahu’s eligibility. He warned the entire legal establishment could be on the chopping block if there was a wrong move, and they would be accused again of a coup against the executive branch.

This is a radical change from the High Court’s previous readiness to, for good or bad, follow its conscience and address the fateful issues at hand.
It's certainly a positive development, but nevertheless, this should come as a crucial issue in the coming election in March. Mandelblit and those leftists he's serving caused a lot of problems that could've been avoided, and this calls for some serious reforms in the judicial system.

Update: former justice minister Haim Ramon, himself a leftist, has actually come to Netanyahu's defense, and said he has a right to request immunity.

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  • I'm Avi Green
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