Jerusalem: Israel’s high court heard petitions on Sunday that seek to block Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government because he has been charged with serious crimes.
An exceptionally large panel of 11 justices participated in the highly anticipated session that was being portrayed by some as a watershed moment for Israeli democracy.
The hearing was broadcast live, a rare arrangement for the court and a nod to ongoing restrictions on public life during the coronavirus pandemic.
Much is at stake. If the court voids Netanyahu’s ability to serve as prime minister, Israel could be plunged into political chaos, and it would likely trigger the country’s fourth consecutive election in just over 12 months.
The justices are being asked to decide whether a prime minister can form a government while under indictment – something the Israeli legal code does not explicitly prohibit.
The high court has become a lightning rod for criticism by Netanyahu and his political allies, who accuse it of overreach and political interference, while the long-time leader’s opponents consider it a bastion of democracy under dangerous assault.
Pro-democracy demonstrators have been taking to the streets weekly to protest Netanyahu’s continued rule. Last week, counter-protesters against the court demonstrated against its hearing the petitions against Netanyahu’s rule.