Israel's top court is deciding if corruption charges should bar Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government.
Wearing face masks and separated by dividers, the 11 justices convened Sunday to discuss the fate of Netanyahu. The long-serving prime minister had recently reached an agreement with his election rival, Benny Gantz, to end a government deadlock. Opponents of Netanyahu, however, are claiming criminal charges — including bribery, fraud and breach of trust — should prevent him from leading the unity government.
The justices are expected to reach a decision this week.
A ruling against Netanyahu would be a serious blow to Israeli governance.Three elections — the most recent in March — have failed to conclusively decide the country's leadership.
Last month, however, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a deal between Netanyahu and Gantz to form an emergency government. The deal allows Netanyahu — already Israel's longest-serving prime minister — to remain in his role through October of next year before handing over leadership to Gantz.
The deal had been supported by Israel's parliament. But opposition parties and watchdogs petitioned Israel's supreme court to block Netanyahu's leadership as he faced a series of corruption charges.
Israeli law doesn't force a sitting prime minister to step down if indicted, though Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to be indicted while in office.
Netanyahu faces charges in three corruption cases. The most serious stem from an alleged attempt to garner positive media coverage by promoting regulations that would favor a telecommunications company. Netanyahu has denied the allegations and said they are politically-motivated.