He indicted Netanyahu but sees no reason to bar him from office

JERUSALEM — Israel’s attorney general said Thursday that neither the criminal charges that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing nor the unusual terms of the coalition deal he struck with a former rival should disqualify him from forming a new government.

The opinion by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who oversaw the investigation of Netanyahu and personally issued the indictment against him, could wind up strengthening his defenses against removal. It comes as Israel’s Supreme Court is to hear legal challenges Sunday to Netanyahu’s power-sharing agreement with Benny Gantz, who fought him to a draw in three elections before giving up and joining him.


Netanyahu, who is accused of trading lucrative favors for gifts and positive press coverage in dealings with Israeli media moguls, is set to stand trial beginning May 24 on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

In his opinion Thursday, Mandelblit reasoned that since Parliament had not explicitly prohibited a lawmaker in Netanyahu’s predicament from becoming prime minister, that was tantamount to allowing it. He also argued that Parliament’s discretion in choosing a prime minister required enormous deference from the court, particularly since the legal cases against Netanyahu were well known to the public at the time of the election.