Justice minister boycotts cabinet meeting, angry at Gantz and Netanyahu

Avi Nissenkorn is furious that his party leader, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, failed to update him on senior civil service appointments that skipped over his ministry.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of the Blue and White party boycotted the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday after being overlooked in a deal last week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz over senior civil service positions.

Squabbling between Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Defense Minister Gantz’s Blue and White have held up numerous appointments of senior civil servants as the two jockey for power within the government, even as a December deadline for a national budget approaches.

Senior postings require cabinet approval, and despite forming a new unity government together in May, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Gantz have failed to fill several key positions in the justice, finance and other ministries.

On Friday, the two leaders reached a deal to fill two senior appointments but did not inform Nissenkorn, nor did they discuss the director-general position of the Justice Ministry that the minister has been trying to fill.

The Blue and White party stated several times that it would not vote to approve appointments without a new director general the Justice Ministry, which was postponed while two other senior positions were made with Gantz’s approval.

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At the cabinet meeting boycotted by Nissenkorn, a new accountant-general was approved for the Finance Ministry, headed by Likud Minister Yisrael Katz, and a director-general for the office of the Alternate Prime Minister.

However, most political observers expect Israel to go to elections before next November. Netanyahu has apparently been trying to push off elections into later in 2021 so that he can improve on his weakened position in public opinion polls.

By law, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, must approve the 2021 budget by December. Otherwise, the country will automatically go to elections, most likely in March or April.

Gantz is pushing for a full budget, which would help stabilize the government and give him a shot at taking over from Netanyahu next November, according to the coalition deal. For his part, Netanyahu and the Likud are pushing for emergency short-term budgets of only a few months each, in an apparent bid to stretch out Netanyahu’s term and go to elections later in 2021, thus blocking Gantz from becoming prime minister as specified in the unity government agreement.

Instead of attending the cabinet meeting, Nissenkorn tweeted that he had gone ahead with other appointments in his ministry.

“This morning I signed 26 professional appointments, which completed 170 appointments I have made so far in the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary,” Nissenkorn tweeted. “We will continue to act in a professional and matter-of-fact manner, in order to improve service to the citizens. This is our duty to the entire Israeli public.”

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Nissenkorn got support from opposition Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid, who has been needling Gantz and Netanyahu over their lack of unity.

“The Minister of Justice is correct and demonstrates a value-based approach,” Lapid said . “This is a disgraceful appointment. Instead of worrying about education, health and the economy, Gantz arranges for his friends fabricated jobs in non-existent offices.”