Opinion: The decision to let the PM form and lead the next government is a return of the rule of law, and while the judges showed restraint in flexing their power, now it is time to see if Israel’s politicians can display the same discipline

The High Court hearing on the coalition agreement
The High Court hearing on the coalition agreement

The unanimous decision by the High Court on Wednesday to reject the petitions against Benjamin Netanyahu serving as prime minister and to approve the coalition agreement was not only the right move from a legal perspective, it was also right for the public.

In the last few months, the High Court has made several decisions that spun it back into the age judicial activism. On Wednesday though, we returned to the shores of restraint.

It was not a cowardly decision, it was not the result of the threats hurled at the court by Netanyahu and the rest of the Likud.

It was simply the right decision, and it is safe to assume this decision would have been made even if the politicians had kept mum.

Too often did public discourse leak from politics into the judiciary and too often did judges’ rulings seems like public relations copy.

The line between the rule of law and the rule of judges has been crossed in many court verdicts.

(Lest one assume that this happened solely on the left, there are plenty of instances from the right-wingers too. Late Justice Edmund Levy never hid his tendencies towards the right bloc, and if it had been up to him, he would have easily ruled against the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005.)

But in the decision handed down Wednesday, the rule of judges was restrained and the rule of law was revealed in all its splendor and glory.

 בג"ץ דן בהסכם הקואליציוני שנחתם בין הליכוד לכחול לבן
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Supreme Court’s President Esther Hayut, and Head of Blue & White Benny Gantz (Photo: AP, Oren Ben Hakun)


There is no arguing that there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a man to form and lead a government while the sword of three indictments hangs over his head.

It is beneath the Knesset, the government and the nation.

But a debate took place in the Knesset and it wasn’t Netanyahu’s acolytes who believed parliament – and not the courts – should deliver the final verdict on the matter.

The lawmakers feared for a future scenario of political persecution that would lead to indictments – and they are loathe to give any attorney, no matter how senior, the power to oust a sitting prime minister.

מפגינים צופים בדיון בבג"ץ
Protesters against Netanyahu watching the verdict live in front of the Knesset (Photo: AFP)


The decision to allow an MK to form a government “is at the very heart of the democratic process.”
wrote the court in its verdict. “External intervention in this process is a violation of the principle of majority choice, which is the very foundation of our system of government.”

Many who do not sit on the High Court bench wrote the same thing, and the fact that the judges shared this perspective is commendable. It does not matter what the judges personally think of an indicted candidate, it is important that they respect the rule of law and court.

Yet the story is far from over. The coalition agreement between Likud and Blue & White has passed the test of the High Court, but only “for the time being”.

The two sides had already retracted several invalid clauses, thus making the judges’ decision process easier.

The judges showed restraint, now is the time to see if the politicians will do the same.

As reported by Ynetnews