Israel’s attorney-general green-lights Netanyahu for forming gov’t despite corruption trial

Israel’s attorney-general said on Thursday that no legal grounds exist for preventing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from serving as prime minister during his corruption trial.

In an opinion submitted to the Supreme Court, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said the criminal charges against Netanyahu raise “significant misgivings” but “does not justify a judicial intervention” to bar the long-time leader from forming a new government.

The opinion was part of discussions held at the Supreme Court over a series of petitions submitted by anti-corruption groups and high-profile public figures from the academy, high-tech, and the security system, including two former Shin Bet security service chiefs. They asked the top court to ban Netanyahu from serving as prime minister for his criminal indictment.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli parliament approved in the first reading a bill to enable the unity government deal between Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party and his former chief rival Benny Gantz’ centrist Blue and White party.

Under the unusual power-sharing deal signed on April 20, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months before being replaced by Gantz.

The unity government deal was achieved after three rounds of elections that produced inconclusive results in about a year.

The bill still needs two more full rounds of readings in the parliament before getting its final approvement.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and calls the allegations part of “a witch-hunt.”

His trial is scheduled to begin on May 24 in the Jerusalem District Court.