Netanyahu and Gantz Compromise on Key Issue, but a Clash Is All but Inevitable

While the prime minister's Likud party hopes to get more cabinet ministers involved in senior appointments, Gantz's Kahol Lavan fears the move will lead to weaker officials in key positions

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu during a Knesset vote to avoid election, August 24, 2020.
Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu during a Knesset vote to avoid election, August 24, 2020.Credit: Oren Ben Hakoon
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Israel’s cabinet is expected to approve in the next few weeks the formation of a committee to examine the appointment of senior government officials as part of a compromise between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan parties, but many issues surrounding the move remain unresolved.

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On Monday, Kahol Lavan agreed to discuss the processes, some of which are set by law, as part of the compromise with Likud that postponed the deadline for approving the state budget – and prevented the dissolving of the Knesset and a new election. All senior appointments will be frozen for 120 days until the committee completes its discussions.

In establishing the committee, Likud is hoping to increase the involvement of all ministers in such appointments, which in some cases the cabinet has no input. Likud wants to put an end to the search committees – whose decisions are virtually obligatory according to a High Court of Justice ruling from 2012 – or to make them recommend multiple candidates rather than just one, as is the case today. Another of Likud’s goals is to do away with the Goldberg committee that vets all senior appointments, including those in the security agencies and the police.

Even though they agreed to establish the committee, Kahol Lavan officials oppose Likud’s intentions because they think Likud’s goal is to bring about the appointments of a weak state prosecutor and a weak attorney general. These disagreements are expected to lead to a clash between the two sides. Gantz, alternate prime minister and Kahol Lavan’s chairman, said he would not let “anyone appoint their puppets to public office.”

Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he did not intend on intervening in the appointment of a new police commissioner and state prosecutor. Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn told Army Radio on Tuesday that Netanyahu’s statements were “obvious, and they need to make sure that is what happens.”

Even though there is no disagreement on the establishment of the committee in its own right, “we will stand fast on the principle that the system will not be politicalized,” he added. “Israel needs unity and to focus on the important matters, and we need to make sure that this is kept on matters of rule of law, too,” said Nissenkorn.

The establishment of the committee is part of the compromise to postpone the date the state budget must be passed, proposed by the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Zvi Hauser – but the committee is not set in law.

The Knesset approved the bill to postpone the budget deadline on Monday night, two hours before the Knesset would have had to pass the budget, otherwise the Knesset would have automatically dissolved and new elections would have been called.

On the eve of the forming of the present government, Likud and Kahol Lavan committed, in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice, to appoint senior law enforcement officials within 100 days of the swearing in of the new government.

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