JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Supreme Court heard a petition on Thursday against a law that protects Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from being removed from office over claims of a conflict of interest due to his ongoing corruption trial.
Netanyahu’s governing coalition passed a law in March that limits removing a prime minister from office to cases of medical and mental incapacitation. It would protect Netanyahu from being deemed unfit for office because of his ongoing corruption trial and claims of a conflict of interest. Critics say the law is tailor-made for Netanyahu and encourages corruption.
A few dozen people protested outside Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem as judges heard the petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.
“The Knesset interfered in the Israeli constitution, changing it only for one person,” Tomer Naor, chief legal officer at the organization, said outside the court.
The law that passed earlier this year would allow “Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing charges in court today, to basically escape from review by the Supreme Court,” he added.
The law stipulates that a prime minister can only be deemed unfit to rule for health or mental reasons and that only the premier or the government can make that decision, not the attorney general.
Netanyahu is on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases.
The hearing came as Netanyahu and his allies are trying to pass a series of judicial overhaul bills that aim to curtail the power of the Supreme Court and give the ruling coalition control over the appointment of judges. It remained unclear when the court would issue a decision in the matter.
The judicial overhaul plan has triggered months of mass protests in an increasingly divided Israel as opponents say the measures would concentrate power in the hands of the executive and erode the limited checks and balances.
Netanyahu and his allies, who took power in December after the country’s fifth election in under four years, say that these changes are necessary to curb what they see as an overly activist court made up of unelected judges.