JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Israel’s shaky political establishment was thrown into dissaray once again on Tuesday after the Supreme Court froze the appointment of Justice Minister Ofir Akunis, claiming that it was implemented in violation of law. The court then demanded that Netanyahu give a reason why the appointment should not be cancelled. Netanyahu belatedly relented and withdrew the appointment Wednesday.Join our WhatsApp group
Subscribe to our Daily Roundup Email
The cabinet had met Tuesday to hurriedly decide on the identity of the Justice Minister after the court had demanded that a minister immediately be appointed in the wake of a month-long vacuum in the position. Blue And White leader Benny Gantz had demanded that he be appointed to the position, since he had previously held the appointment and the interim government is basically a continuation of the previous one, in which his party held the ministry. He also claimed that the prime minister could not be involved in the appointment since he has a conflict of interests due to his ongoing trial.
However Prime Minister Netanyahu, mindful of the damage to his political and personal aspirations from a Justice Minister who is working in tandem with the Supreme Court, sought to appoint Akunis, a Likud leader who is sharply critical of the court’s activism. Netanyahu placed the issue on the agenda for Tuesday, with Gantz assuming that he would continue his previous appointment. However after his appointment was rejected, Netanyahu took advantage of the majority he has in the cabinet from the previous government and appointed Akunis. Attorney-General Mandelblit immediately claimed that Netanyahu’s move was illegal as it contradicted the coalition agreement with Blue And White which itself is ratified in law.
The agreement states that a “parity” government grants each of the country’s two “prime ministers”, the serving one and the “alternate” one, a veto over each other’s actions in the cabinet. They also grant each side complete control over appointing and firing of ministers within their “bloc” in the cabinet. Netanyahu maintains that after the election the previous agreements do not hold during an interim government.
The cabinet meeting broke up inconclusively with a sharp dispute between Mandelblit and Netanyahu. Mandelblit, the government’s chief legal adviser, shouted at Netanyahu: “You did not let me speak until after holding a vote that I consider to be illegal. You did not uphold your own government decision. That’s my interpretation, that’s my stance. The vote was therefore illegal. Since the vote was illegal, so is the result. The consequence is clear: the decision was not approved…”
Netanyahu responded by calling Mandelblit’s position “absurd,” “manipulative” and “impossible.” Realizing however that Mandelblit would go to the court which would clearly question the decision, Netanyahu asked for a 48-hour furlough to “try to reach an agreement between the sides.” Mandelblit was having none of this and petitioned the court stating that Netanyahu had acted illegally in appointing the minister.
The court froze the appointment and demanded a response from Netanyahu Wednesday. The prime minister relented in the end and decided to withdraw Akunis’s nomination and appoint Gantz as Justice Minister, but the damage to his reputation from the allegedly illegal appointment remains palpable.
For Netanyahu’s political opponents the course of events was further proof that they cannot rely on Netanyahu to maintain agreements or even to uphold the law. Yamina leader Naftali Bennett said that “The State of Israel is approaching an abyss of anarchy.”
New Hope party chief Gideon Sa’ar tweeted that “the saga… is further testament to the urgent need to replace the leadership.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said, “Anyone who thought even for a moment to make a deal with Netanyahu has just received a reminder that there is no chance he’ll live up to his end of the deal.
“The supreme disdain for the rule of law, for any agreement he’s made, the lies as a way of life — all of these exploded today surrounding the appointment of a justice minister. He just can’t not cheat.”