Israel’s top law enforcement officer says there’s no legal ground to force Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu to resign in the face of three corruption charges against him.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelbilt, the man who indicted Netanyahu on the charges last week, said Monday there is nothing in Israeli law that says he has to go.
A removal under the Basic Law of Government, he said, only applies if the prime minister might become physically or mentally “incapacitated.”
“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.
The prime minister was charged last week with bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from what prosecutors say were efforts to generate positive news coverage.
Netanyahu’s indictment has put the Israeli government into a historic quandary. No sitting prime minister has ever been indicted, particularly as part of a government in transition.
Neither Netanyahu nor opposition leader Benny Gantz were able to form a coalition government after a tight election in September, the second of the year.
Mendelblit did not say whether Netanyahu should delegate the other titles he holds while under indictment. He also acts as minister of health, welfare, diaspora and agriculture.
The attorney general said under Knesset law, if a prime minister is forced to resign he still remains the caretaker prime minister, suggesting that Netanyahu would remain in power because of Israel’s current political stalemate.
Some in Netanyahu’s Likud Party have called for his removal. Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar said Netanyahu’s resignation could break the political deadlock.
“Netanyahu needs to take responsibility, not because of the indictment but because of the situation the country is in, in which no one has the ability to form a government,” he said. “I would take responsibility and resign, and allow the [Likud] movement to hold a democratic process.”