A-G to PM, Gantz: I can't defend lack of appointments before High Court

Likud and Blue and White have squabbled over forming a joint appointments committee and over candidates for senior positions.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit (R) during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem (photo credit: MENAHEM KAHANA / REUTERS)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit (R) during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MENAHEM KAHANA / REUTERS)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz warning that if they cannot resolve their differences to make major appointments, he would be unable to defend the situation before the High Court of Justice.
Mandelblit referenced multiple petitions already filed before the High Court, including one with a hearing scheduled for November 12, which have demanded that the government make the key appointments.
Key positions without a permanent individual filling the role include the state attorney, police chief, head of the Israel Prisons Service, chief scientist, the Finance Ministry's chief accountant and many ministry directors-general.
All of these appointments have been frozen with Netanyahu and Gantz exchanging accusations that the other side is not complying with its coalition agreement.
Mandelblit said that he was able to defend a delay in appointments for the government's first 100 days from May 17 until the end of August.
However, now that more than two months have passed beyond those first 100 days of giving a new government time to establish itself, especially during the coronavirus crisis, he said he can no longer justify delayed appointments before the High Court.
Responding to Mandelblit’s letter, Gantz directed Nissenkorn to move the appointment of the next state attorney forward.
A meeting regarding that appointment was already scheduled for Sunday of next week, but Netanyahu can use his majority in the cabinet to block any nomination by the appointments committee.
Potentially as a compromise, Gantz called on Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to move forward with appointing a new police chief.
The informal horse-trading could mean Gantz will sign off on the Likud’s pick for police chief if Netanyahu signs off on Blue and White’s pick for state attorney.
“The state needs to fully function and to be stable at this time. We cannot hold up appointments in a manner which will harm the citizens of Israel,” said Gantz.
The Likud did not respond directly to Mandelblit, instead focusing its fire on Nissenkorn.
It accused Nissenkorn of having a conflict of interest, claiming that the prosecution can hold over him that they closed an investigation into his conduct shortly before he took office as justice minister.
Meanwhile, the prosecution has said that Nissenkorn was never a suspect and that an initial review relating to him was closed in 2017, years before he became justice minister.
The Likud also said that Nissenkorn has violated understandings that were part of the coalition deal regarding appointments and just wants to continue “the old method of the system appointing its own, as if they are ‘objective,’ merely so that each person can close each other’s cases.”
Further, the Likud said that recent news had shown improper practices surrounding appointments within the state prosecution and that Nissenkorn was ignoring this.
State prosecution officials say that the Likud is trying to politicize appointments.
Ohana said to the Knesset Channel, “I call on Gantz to respect the agreement, to form a joint-team and allow a police chief to be appointed.”
The Likud has said that Blue and White has failed to work as part of a joint appointments committee that the sides agreed to.
Blue and White has said that Likud is trying to politicize appointments to influence Netanyahu's trial for public corruption.
The sides have fought especially hard over who will replace Shai Nitzan as state attorney, a post which has been empty since December 2019.
Both sides are also at loggerheads over when a budget will be passed and whether Netanyahu will permit Gantz to become prime minister in November 2021 as part of the rotation deal.