The attorney general asked the High Court of Justice Monday to postpone until early May hearing a petition demanding that vacant cabinet positions be filled immediately.
In his response to the petition, Avichai Mendelblit wrote that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised to have the cabinet discuss filling all the vacancies, including the appointment of a permanent justice minister, by the end of April. If the problem is not resolved by then, the court should hear the petition at the start of May, he said.
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, whose temporary appointment as justice minister expired April 1, had urged the court to issue an immediate show-cause order requiring the government to explain why it shouldn’t fill the vacancies immediately. The petitioners – the Tohar Hamidot organization and the Movement for Quality Government in Israel – criticized Mendeblit for seeking a delay, saying he too should have sought a show-cause order.
The court will consider Mendelblit’s request for postponement Thursday.
Despite seeking the delay, Mendelblit agreed with the petitioners that the failure to appoint permanent cabinet ministers, and especially a permanent justice minister, is a serious problem that will severely impede the government’s functioning. Several cabinet posts are currently vacant, and the damage will only get worse with time, he added.
Moreover, he said, the longer the government lets these posts remain unfilled, the more unreasonable its behavior becomes. Thus it will eventually reach the point of such extreme unreasonableness that the court will have no choice but to order it to fill the posts immediately.
The petition was filed in the wake of a legal opinion that Mendelblit submitted to the cabinet secretary last week. In it, he wrote that as long as there is no justice minister, the diplomatic-security cabinet, the coronavirus cabinet and the committee on the Shin Bet security service are all barred from making decisions.
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Aside from the Justice Ministry, the other ministries with no ministers are communications, higher education, water resources, social equality, and science and technology. All had previously had acting ministers whose terms expired over the past few weeks, and the petitioners are demanding that permanent ministers be appointed to all of them.
The petitioners argued that the government’s failure to fill these vacancies violates the law and severely harms the public interest. This is especially grave because it’s rooted in a petty political dispute that in no way justifies paralyzing the government, they added.
Tohar Hamidot’s director, Omer Makayes, said Mendelblit should have supported an immediate show-cause order, “given the government’s proven record of delaying appointments. We hope the court will set a very short deadline for the government to do its duty, given the enormous damage caused by the lack of ministers at this time.”