Court Rules Netanyahu Must Appoint Full-time Health Minister

Deputy Health Minister Litzman must either resign or assume full ministerial title, Supreme Court says in response to Yesh Atid petition; ultra-Orthodox party opposes its members joining the cabinet.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. Credit: Tali Meyer
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Ultra-Orthodox Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman cannot continue to hold his role as "deputy minister acting as minister," the High Court of Justice ruled on Sunday, giving Litzman 60 days to either assume full ministerial responsibilities or resign his position.

Officials from United Torah Judaism said that as the court ruling essentially left no other choice, the Gerer Rebbe would likely instruct Litzman to assume the ministerial title. No member of UTJ has ever held a full cabinet position.

A panel of five High Court justices headed by President Miriam Naor accepted the Yesh Atid party's petition and ruled that the temporary role maintained by the deputy minister was illegal.

The court's ruling did not discuss whether the prime minister can hold any other ministerial portfolios, a question also raised by the petition.

Litzman's United Torah Judaism party, an ultra-Orthodox party, is generally against its members holding ministerial positions. This objection stems from a halakhic concern over voting on going to war, and from an ideological stance against partnership with the state.

Officially, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds the health portfolio, in addition to several other ministerial portfolios.

Last month the High Court severely criticized a framework proposed by the attorney general for the division of authority between Netanyahu and Litzman ־ apparently making Netanyahu acting minister, and not just “on paper.” The Supreme Court said no new frameworks could enable the "deputy minister acting as minister" role to continue to exist, and said Netanyahu cannot continue to hold any other portfolios.

The state's representative at the court discussion admitted that the ruling has further repercussions, since the prime minister also holds several other portfolios, including the foreign and communications portfolios.

The Prime Minister's Office said in response that Sunday's ruling will be respected.

Litzman's Office said in response that the issue would be brought before and decided by the Torah Sages Council.

Yesh Atid lauded the court ruling: "The health system is one of the State of Israel's most complicated and problematic systems and it deserves a minister who can fulfil the position with all the necessary authorities and responsibilities required from a minister in the State of Israel."

"Of course this isn't a war against the haredim, but against the culture of political tricks and deals," the statement concluded.

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