Israel’s Netanyahu, a Trump ally, allowed to form government ahead of criminal corruption trial: Court

In a unanimous ruling this week, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected petitions calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be prevented from forming a government while he is under indictment for felony corruption charges, The New York Times reported.

Justices also decided not to block an unprecedented power-sharing arrangement between Netanyahu, who is an ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, and Benny Gantz, a political opponent who effectively tied the prime minister in a series of three elections and wanted to avoid a fourth.

While Netanyahu ultimately won a fifth term, the opposition party gained a slight majority in the Knesset, or Israel’s parliament. He is set to be sworn in for his next term on Wednesday, which is less than two weeks before his criminal trial is scheduled to begin.

Tentative plan moves forward

According to the terms of the arrangement, Gantz will rotate into the role of prime minister after 18 months, serving as foreign minister and Netanyahu’s deputy in the interim. Should a court convict Netanyahu, however, the plan will not be implemented.

For his part, the prime minister has denied what he described as meritless charges put forward as an attempt to remove him from office, the BBC reports.

Reports indicate Gantz and Netanyahu decided to share power in large part due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In addition to addressing the related health and economic crisis, Netanyahu is expected to focus on the annexation of land in the West Bank, which has long been a priority for his right-wing party, according to Axios.

Most experts reportedly expected the high court’s decision establishing Netanyahu’s ability to form a government, since the alternative would effectively result in overturning an election.

The court’s rationale

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut wrote the opinion, addressing the justices’ belief that “[e]xternal intervention in this procedure would be a significant violation of the principle of the majority making a decision, which stands at the foundation of our system.”

As for the agreement between the rival leaders, it has reportedly not yet been finalized and could still collapse amid pressure from both sides.

Back in the United States, President Trump has long been a vocal supporter of both Israel and Netanyahu, so he is likely pleased with the recent developments. Of course, Gantz has praised Trump based on existing plans to broker a peace deal in the Middle East, as The Times of Israel notes.

Regardless of how the political situation unfolds in Israel, it appears America is poised to continue a longstanding strategic and diplomatic partnership with its closest ally in the region.

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