Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday refused to rule on a request by lawyers seeking to prevent indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government after looming elections.

The lawyers took their case to Israel’s highest court on Tuesday, arguing that Netanyahu’s indictment in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust should prevent him from being mandated by the president to form a government.

But the court on Thursday said it was unable to rule on the sensitive case, saying the lawyers’ request was “premature.”

Israel faces a third general election in less than a year on March 2, after national polls in April and September failed to yield a governing coalition.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was deadlocked with centrist Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party in both the 2019 elections.

Reacting to the court’s decision, Gantz said on Twitter: “Netanyahu will be judged by the public at the polls, and we will win.”

Israeli law stipulates that a sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

But it does not provide immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu on Wednesday asked parliament for immunity.

The request is “in line with the law … (and) with the goal of continuing to serve you, for the future of Israel,” the premier said.

That request is expected to delay the start of court proceedings for months, as lawmakers are not due to vote on the matter until after the general election.

AFP