MK warns if attorney general tries ‘coup d’etat,’ he will be met by counterforce of the people

The Religious Zionist party leader said the judicial branch was interfering in the process of choosing a new justice minister.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Religious Zionist Party leader Betzalel Smotrich blasted the attorney general Tuesday night after his rejection of the cabinet vote appointing an ally of the prime minister to the post of justice minister, saying he was attempting an illegal judicial takeover of the government.

“It must be said with a clear voice: [Avichai] Mandelblit is not authorized to incapacitate the prime minister,” Smotrich tweeted. “There is no such law and no such animal. This dangerous threat is not a threat to Netanyahu, that’s not the issue at all. It is a threat to democracy and the people.”

“If Mandelblit leads a coup d’etat by force, he will meet a counterforce of the nation that will fight for its independence and sovereignty,” he added.

Smotrich and others in the right-wing camp have often accused the judicial branch of illegally interfering in the functions of the other branches of government.

Smotrich also criticized Mandelblit earlier in the day while taking a shot at Yemina party leaders who may join Netanyahu’s opponents to form a coalition.

“Mr. Attorney General. Avichai. Don’t worry. A little patience. Very soon Naftali [Bennett] and Ayelet [Shaked] will be forming a ‘government of change’ and you will be the real prime minister again,” he tweeted.

The brouhaha started after the Likud-led bloc in the cabinet voted Tuesday to give current Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis a second role as Justice Minister. The attorney general had made his objections known prior to the vote, arguing the cabinet didn’t have the right to appoint a Justice Minister from Likud based on previously agreed-upon rules.

Netanyahu didn’t allow Mandelblit to speak on the record before the show of hands, so Mandelblit declared the vote invalid immediately afterwards and went to the High Court of Justice to get backup for his ruling.

On Tuesday night, the High Court of Justice froze the appointment. It set a new hearing for the issue for Wednesday afternoon, indicating the urgency with which it views the situation.