Photo Credit: Oren Ben Hakoon / POOL
Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut arrives at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on May 3, 2020, to hear a petition against the coalition agreement between the Blue and White and Likud parties.

by Mati Tuchfeld, Gideon Allon, Danielle Roth-Avneri and Yehuda Shlezinger / Israel Hayom

Following High Court hearings earlier this week of petitions challenging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to form a government and the unity deal between Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue & White party, a senior Likud official on Tuesday laid down some red lines that if crossed, he said, would cancel the deal and send Israel back to elections.


The court is set to deliver its rulings on the petitions by the end of the week.

The first such red line, said the official, would be if the court ruled that Netanyahu could not serve as prime minister.

The second red line would be the right-wing bloc being prevented from forming a blocking opposition on the Judges Selection Committee. According to the Likud, appointments to the Supreme Court have nothing to do with Netanyahu’s upcoming trial, as it is likely that Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut would appoint experienced judges to any panel pertaining to Netanyahu’s cases, not newly-appointed ones.

The third red line, the official said, is the invalidation of the framework proposal for the rotation of the premiership. According to the terms of the coalition agreement reached between the Likud and Blue & White, 18 months from now Netanyahu is supposed to step aside so that Gantz can serve as prime minister for the following 18 months. If the court decides that transfer of power is illegal, Netanyahu would find himself without any government position, in which case he would prefer to hold new elections.

Another issue that would apparently not cause a new election but give Likud and Blue & White some headaches nevertheless, would be if they were forced to renegotiate the three-year unity deal. According to the current agreement, the unity government will dissolve itself three years after the date on which it is sworn in, and a general Knesset election will be held.

There is concern that the court will rule that the unity government cannot change the term of an elected Knesset, which the law sets at four years. Theoretically, the matter could be solved through a deal according to which Netanyahu and Gantz are each in power for two years, but Gantz is insisting on stepping in as prime minister after 18 months.

On Tuesday, the Likud and Blue & White submitted to the court adjustments and clarifications to the coalition deal.

A document submitted to the court spelled out the time frame for the current national emergency situation, which will continue for six months after a new government is sworn in. The parties agreed that regular legislation would be allowed to go ahead during the emergency period, but that laws pertaining to the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic would be given priority. The parties agreed to limit the time frame for top-level appointments to 100 days from the time a government is sworn in, rather than the original six months.

Meanwhile, the Knesset is due on Wednesday to start voting to approve the “Rotation Bill” in its second and third readings. Voting is scheduled to begin at 4 pm and continue through Thursday afternoon.

After the law is passed, 61 Knesset members will have to sign a request for the president to tap Netanyahu to form a government. The signed letter must be delivered to the President’s Residence by midnight on Thursday. If for any reason 61 signatures are not secured, the Knesset will dissolve itself and a fourth election will be held.

The Rotation Bill includes a series of major changes to the Basic Law: The Government. It details the structure of a rotation government, states that the number of ministers and deputy ministers must be equal in both blocs comprising the coalition and sets down the swearing-in procedure for the first and second prime ministers, as well as the dates for the handover of power and guidelines for government continuity.

A separate bill currently up for debate would allow for an amendment to the campaign finance law which would allow the Derech Eretz Party, which is joining the coalition, to receive funding for its activities.

As the Knesset works to pass the laws that will allow the Likud and Blue and White to form an emergency government, one partner on the right—the Yamina faction—has yet to commit to supporting the government.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett tweeted on Tuesday that “If Prime Minister Netanyahu offers me the Health Ministry and to take charge of the battle against corona, I’ll join the mission. It is a true national mission.”

Naftali added that “To prepare for another wave of infection that might arrive in the fall, we need to carry out important procedures. We must be prepared ahead of time, so we won’t have to shut down the Israeli economy.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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