Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surveys scene of Arava oil spill.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Ministry has been operating without a minister since the end of last week, ministry employees stress that they are able to continue working with little disturbance.
The temporary tenure of Ophir Akunis as deputy environmental protection minister concluded on Wednesday, due to the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s role as environmental protection minister reached its three-month maximum.
There has consequently been neither an environmental protection minister nor a deputy minister governing the office for the past days.
“Section 24c of the government’s Basic Law stipulates that an acting minister’s term of office shall not exceed three months,” the Justice Ministry said. “On the date that the minister’s tenure expires, the tenure of the deputy minister of environmental protection who is appointed by him also ceases – by virtue of section 26.2 of the Basic Law.”
Netanyahu assumed the role of environmental protection minister on November 11, two days after the resignation of former environmental protection minister Amir Peretz.
On December 9, Netanyahu appointed Akunis to run the ministry as deputy environmental protection minister, less than a week after an oil spill disaster befell the Arava Desert.
Despite the fact that Akunis was governing the office as deputy minister, Netanyahu was still technically serving as its head. Three months after Netanyahu assumed that role, on February 11, the prime minister’s tenure as environment minister expired – and as a result, so too did the tenure of the deputy minister.
Although the Environmental Protection Ministry now lacks both a minister and a deputy minister, both the Justice and Environment ministries stressed that the latter will be able to continue to function for the most part.
“As a rule, the ministry will be able to function in the existing situation in most of its activities, and whenever activation of statutory powers vested in a minister will be required, the ways to do so will be explored,” the Justice Ministry said.
The Environmental Protection Ministry similarly emphasized that the brunt of its operations is continuing as normal.
“The ministry is operating as usual, and most of the authorities were delegated to the director-general and professional officials of the ministry,” the ministry said.
“Professionals are handling all issues in their fields as usual.”