A man wearing a mask for protection against the spread of the coronavirus holds a sign in front of a poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Benny Gantz, left, that reads: "say no the corrupt government, " as another one holds and Israeli flag during a protest against the government and the corruption, at Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, May 2, 2020. (Photo: AP)
JERUSALEM, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Israel's Supreme Court said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could form a government while facing a criminal trial.
A panel of 11 supreme court's judges unanimously rejected a series of petitions asking for banning Netanyahu from leading the new government and cancelling a unity government deal the long-time leader has inked with his rival Benny Gantz.
The judges said the criminal charges against Netanyahu and the unity deal raise "considerable constitutional difficulties" but "at the moment, there is no judicial prevention" for the court to interfere.
The ruling removes a major hurdle in Netanyahu's way to form a new government following the March 2 elections.
Some eight petitions were submitted by dozens of anti-corruption groups and high-profile public figures from the academy, high-tech, and the security system, including two former Shin Bet security service chiefs.
Netanyahu did not immediately comment on the ruling.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the groups that petitioned to the court, wrote on Twitter that while it "respects" the ruling, it is "impossible to accept a situation where a prime minister is a person with criminal charges."
Under the unity deal, Netanyahu will continue to serve as the prime minister for 18 months before being replaced by Gantz.
The deal was signed on April 20 after neither party succeeded in forming a governing coalition in the country's deeply divided 120-member parliament.
Netanyahu warned on Tuesday that should the Supreme Court cancel the deal, Israel might face the fourth elections after three rounds of votes in fewer than a year produced inconclusive results.
Netanyahu, a hardline leader of the right-wing Likud party, has served as the prime minister since 2009.
He is indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 24 in the Jerusalem District Court.