The High Court Allowed Israel’s Most Demented Government Ever. Now It Will Get Uglier

After about 17 months of political crisis, government paralysis, three general elections and one pandemic that wrecked the economy, the Netanyahu-Gantz cabinet will be sworn in Wednesday at the Knesset.

The nightmare that began in December 2018 will come to an end, at least in its current form. As long as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t regret the arrangement over the weekend, which he’ll be spending at home with his wife and elder son. Sometimes a nuclear family is more like a nuclear disaster.

The swearing-in will take longer than usual, both due to the emergency regulations and the surfeit of ministers, some of whom won’t have any idea what they’ll be doing in the cabinet. If the event could have a soundtrack it would probably be a requiem – a mass for the democratic rules of the game that somehow survived here for 72 years.

Eleven High Court justices unanimously legitimized the strangest, most warped governing coalition ever engineered in a political laboratory. We’ll never know if the gun pointed at their heads – the threat of a fourth election – affected their judgment. Still, they left a few explosive charges scattered along the new government’s path.

Take the Judicial Appointments Committee, which Netanyahu attributes great importance to, probably too much. The judges all but say that when the committee is formed without anyone from the opposition, as Netanyau demands in the coalition agreement, they’ll consider this detrimental to the opposition’s standing; in other words, they’ll probably strike the measure down.

Netanyahu’s insistence on excluding the opposition from the committee is perplexing. It’s said he wants to take revenge on Shai Nitzan, the former state prosecutor, who headed the legal battle that produced Netanyahu’s corruption indictments. Or that he wants to make sure that right-wing judges are appointed who will probably have mercy on him when he appeals his possible conviction in district court.

The first day of High Court hearings on the Netanyahu-Gantz governing coalition, May 3, 2020.Yossi Zamir

His obsession with Nitzan is well known. Maybe all he wants is to thwart Nitzan’s appointment to the Supreme Court. The other argument, however, is irrelevant. The appeal against his possible sentence, in two or three years, will be heard by the more senior justices. The candidates appointed over the next four years won’t be part of this panel even if the verdict is delayed.