Storm over Netanyahu’s justice minister appointment as attorney general rejects it

The attorney general shouted at the ministers: “Do not think that this vote will pass, it is an illegal vote. It is impossible to ignore the fact that they shut me up.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday called the appointment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a new Justice Minister earlier in the day “illegal,” Ynet reported.

Israel’s Supreme Court had a Tuesday afternoon deadline to fill the vacant position that Netanyahu has left open since former minister Avi Nissenkorn bolted Gantz’s Blue and White Party in December.

Under the coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu’s Likud Party with Gantz, the cabinet portfolios are split evenly between the factions. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says that rule is still in force despite Israel having gone to elections again last month.

Netanyahu disagreed.

Heightening tensions about the appointment is the fact that Netanyahu is on trial for corruption, making it a sensitive issue.

On Tuesday, the cabinet voted to appoint Netanyahu loyalist Ofir Akunis, who is currently also serving as Minister of Regional Cooperation, to be the new justice minister. This led to a shouting match.

Kan News reported that Mandelblit shouted at the ministers: “Do not think that this vote will pass, it is an illegal vote. It is impossible to ignore the fact that they shut me up.” He called the exercise illegal.

Netanyahu replied: “The vote I bring is illegal? That is absurd. This whole thing sounds like an impossible manipulation and I’m telling you we’ll get into a bad place.”

“The decision to appoint Minister Akunis was made by the government lawfully and by a majority vote,” he said.

Gantz, who had wanted the portfolio for himself, appeared to wash his hands of the vote. “I will not be a partner in illegal moves,” he said.

Following the shouting match, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of the Shas Party proposed a compromise, calling on the cabinet to vote to give Gantz the powers but not the position, so that they could argue it out for another 48 hours to settle who would be officially appointed.

Netanyahu also called for an additional 48 hours, but Gantz replied that he was in the middle of dealing with military affairs facing Israel and as far as he was concerned, the discussion was over.

The attorney general was scheduled to present arguments to the Supreme Court Tuesday evening for a decision by the judges on the issue.