(JNS) Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not need to resign or take a leave of absence as interim prime minister due to the indictments against him. “There is no practical relevance for a prime minister’s resignation during an interim government,” Mandelblit said in his legal decision about whether or not Netanyahu needed to step down as the head of a caretaker government. “Therefore, in the current circumstances, the question of a temporary leave of absence should likewise be left in the political-public sphere, and there is no justification at this time for the attorney general to rule that the prime minister is unable to carry out his duties,” the statement said.
The Israeli attorney general did provide a ruling on whether or not Netanyahu could legally form a new government. Israel is currently in an unprecedented 21-day period where any member of the Knesset can garner 61 signatures to form a government. If the 21-day period ends without a new government, the country will be headed to elections in March 2020 for the third time in less than a year.
Mandelblit also added that the issue of whether or not Netanyahu must give up his other ministerial portfolios – health, welfare, Diaspora and agriculture – would be decided on a later date. Under Israeli law, there are no requirements for a sitting prime minister to resign if they are under criminal indictment. However, other public officials, including cabinet ministers, are required to step down.
The decision by Mandelblit comes just days after he announced several indictments against Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases dubbed 1000, 2000 and 4000.