Israel Can’t Convene Security Cabinet in Absence of Justice Minister, Attorney General Says

Security cabinet can only meet for emergencies, says Avichai Mendelblit, as Netanyahu continues to refuse to appoint justice minister

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, earlier this month
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, earlier this monthCredit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told the cabinet secretary on Tuesday that it would not be possible for the security and other key cabinets to convene in the absence of a justice minister.

The term of acting Justice Minister Benny Gantz lapsed on April 1, and Mendelblit has been vocal in urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz to fill the post.

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In his legal opinion, Mendelblit stated that the security cabinet could only convene without a justice minister in matters of utmost urgency and on the condition that the number of ministers between the two government blocs  Netanyahu and Gantz  is the same.

However, the coronavirus cabinet and Shin Bet committee would not be able to take decisions without the appointment of a justice minister. 

This comes on the heels of his warnings earlier this month, that the absence of a justice minister will "badly harm the work of the Justice Ministry and the government's functionality."

In the wake of Mendelblit's plea, Gantz addressed Netanyahu and demanded that a vote be held on the appointment of a permanent justice minister at the cabinet meeting scheduled. When Netanyahu did not respond, the meeting was canceled.  

According to the coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu and Gantz, the two agreed that for the government's term, the justice minister post will be filled by Gantz's Kahol Lavan party, and that the appointment of the minister will not be approved by the cabinet without the agreement of the opposing bloc.

The inability to convene the security cabinet could impact the growing tensions with Iran. Defense sources confirmed on Tuesday that a ship owned by an Israeli company was attacked near Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. Israel is confident that this is an Iranian attack, the third against Israeli-owned ships in the last two months, and part of an escalating naval battle between the two countries.