Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s High Court of Justice that he will resign from all of his ministerial posts by January 1, 2020. Netanyahu made the announcement after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said he will force him to quit from these positions if he does not step down voluntarily.
The prime minister currently holds four portfolios: He serves as health minister, welfare minister, agriculture minister and diaspora affairs minister.
Netanyahu, who made this announcement in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, wrote that he will stop acting as minister but “will continue to serve as the prime minister of Israel as stated by law.” The non-profit organization had demanded the court to order that Netanyahu resign from both his ministerial positions and the premiership. “Alternatively, the movement asks that the prime minister declare that he is temporarily incapacitated. If he doesn’t do so, the attorney general should order him to declare so.”
The movement’s legal adviser, attorney Tomer Naor, stated that “we are currently facing a watershed moment by which Israeli democracy will be measured in the coming years. It revolves around one question: Is the State of Israel willing to accept a prime minister who serves under an indictment for grave felonies he allegedly committed while acting as premier?”
The movement also released an official statement in response to Netanyahu’s answer to its petition: “We are dismayed that the prime minister knowingly chose to break the law for many weeks and only announced his resignation [from ministerial posts] following the petition to the High Court that we filed. We call on the court to order the prime minister to immediately resign from all of his positions, including the premiership.”
The decision to resign from ministerial posts is obligatory, and has been so since the High Court set the Dery-Pinchasi precedent in 1993. In that ruling, the court had determined that then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had to fire minister Arye Dery and his deputy Rapahel Pinchasi due to a grave indictment that was filed against them.
Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000, as well as fraud and breach of trust in cases 1000 and 2000. The indictment alleges that Netanyahu “placed himself in a conflict of interests between his public roles and his private affairs.”