No Legal Grounds Forcing Netanyahu to Resign as PM, Attorney General Says

There are no legal grounds to force the resignation or leave-of-absence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in light of his indictment in three corruption cases, Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced on Monday.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 50

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The attorney general was speaking at a meeting held to discuss the administrative and constitutional implications of his decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while he is prime minister of a transitional government, and after neither he nor Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz managed to form a government.

The judiciary's opinion is a crucial point of contention: According to 1993 High Court of Justice decision in the case of two members of Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet at the time, Arye Dery and deputy minister Rafael Pinchasi, ministers are expected to resign if serious criminal charges are filed against them.

Addressing whether the legal precedent applies to Netanyahu's position as prime minister, Mendelblit said that the Basic Law on the Government “does not exhaustively spell out the circumstances that might lead to the incapacitation” of the prime minister. 

“The language of the law and its purpose are primarily directed at a situation in which circumstances, subjectively or objectively, as a practical matter, make it impossible for him to continue to function as prime minister,” Mendelblit said.

As Netanyahu is the first prime minister to face criminal charges, there is no legal opinion as to whether the Dery-Pinchasi precedent applies to his position. The issue will likely be raised through a petition filed to the High Court of Justice.

Mendelblit did not comment on whether Netanyahu will be allowed to form a government or not, and said the issue of whether the prime minister should be forced to drop his ministerial portfolios – he also acts as health, welfare, diaspora and agriculture ministers – would be examined further down the line.