04:22 GMT +320 January 2020
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    With only two months left until Israelis take to the polls to determine who the next prime minister will be, questions still arise as to whether Benjamin Netanyahu, who is vying to retain the post, has the legal right to form a government.

    Israel's Supreme Court of Justice is set to convene on Tuesday pursuant to a petition - filed by some 70 high-tech officials - urging them to determine whether Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu is eligible to form a government in light of his corruption charges.

    The petitioners claim it is "the right of Israelis to know what the rules of the game are" to be able to make educated decisions in the upcoming general vote, set for early March.

    Basing their appeal on a legal precedent from the 1990s when the court ordered then-prime minister Yitzkhak Rabin to fire his interior minister Arieh Deri and his deputy after the two were indicted for taking $150 thousand in bribes, the high-tech officials say the same principle should be applied to the current leader.

    Meanwhile, Netanyahu, who denies any wrong-doing, maintains that the court has no right to interfere in the country's political process. "In democracy it is up to the people, and not anyone else, to decide who their leader will be. Otherwise, it is not a democracy," he said in a statement.

    In Netanyahu We Trust

    His supporters agree with these claims, saying that not everything can be handled judicially and suggesting that there should be a clear separation of power between the country's judicial and executive branches.

    In addition, they claim, the prime minister is protected under Israeli law, which clearly stipulates that unlike an ordinary minister that needs to resign in the event of an indictment, the prime minister can continue to keep his post until there is a final verdict in his case.

    While the law was designed to avoid situations where the resignation of the PM could lead to the collapse of the entire government (which might have devastating effects on the country's security and economy), critics are concerned that the prime minister will use the law to remain in power and avoid facing justice.

    Not Taking Sides

    However, chances that the Supreme Court will rule against the eligibility of Netanyahu are slim. In November, a similar appeal, demanding Netanyahu's removal from office that was submitted by an advocacy group, the Movement for Quality Government, was rejected on the grounds that the movement should have first formally asked the prime minister how he intended to respond to his indictment before filing his petition.

    In November, after Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt announced his decision to indict Netanyahu in a series of graft probes that include buying positive press and receiving illegal gifts, Netanyahu opened a de-legimitising campaign against the country's judiciary, police, the media and the left-wing circles that he accused of plotting to remove him from power.

    Blaming Everyone But Himself

    Thousands seem to have been taken in by his claims. Masses took to the streets across Israel in support of Netanyahu and against "his unjustful persecution" by the media and the police that they believe lost all legitimacy. Hundreds are also expected to stage a demonstration in Tel Aviv tonight.

    In recent years, the Israeli public got disillusioned by the country's institutions. In 2017, for example, a study by the Israel Democracy Institute found that only 30 percent of Israeli Jews and 18 percent of Arab Israelis believed Israel's mass media. Although their trust in the police and the court was much higher reaching 42 and 54 percent respectively (29 and 54 percent among Arab Israelis), the numbers were still low compared to previous years.

    That's why, if the Supreme Court chooses to refrain from impartiality, siding with the left-wing circles that want to see Netanyahu go, the move might drive the final nail in the coffin of the already staggering public trust.

    Netanyahu's rival, the head of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz knows this and has expressed his concerns over the court's looming decision, primarily because such a move could cost his potential votes.

    Although 34 percent of Israelis tend to tilt towards the Blue and White, with Netanyahu's Likud party falling two seats behind, Gantz is fearing that anti-Netanyahu decision might change the equation, with Likud biting off a big chunk of their votes.

    At the same time, Netanyahu is still leading in the polls when it comes to the question of who should be prime minister. Israel's poll on channel 12 revealed that 40 percent of those asked felt Netanyahu was more suitable for the role than Gantz, who gained 38 percent.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    left-wing, Supreme Court, Israel, Israel, election, Benjamin Netanyahu
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