Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit does not have the authority to declare Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu incapable of carrying out his duties because of his decision to appoint Ofir Akunis as justice minister, tweeted MK Bezalel Smotrich, chairman of the Religious Zionism party, on Wednesday.
“There’s no such law and no such animal,” he tweeted. “It is a threat to democracy and the people, and if Mendelblit leads a governmental revolution by force – he will be met with opposing force by the people, who will fight for their independence and sovereignty.”
David Peter, the attorney representing Netanyahu in the High Court of Justice petition against the appointment of the justice minister, said on Wednesday that Mendelblit “is wrong and making a legal mistake.” Peter was referring to Mendelblit’s statement that the cabinet vote on Akunis’ appointment was illegal and invalid, because it required the agreement of Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. Mendelblit said the vote violated both the coalition agreement between Gantz and Netanyahu and the Basic Law on Government. Peter told Kan Bet radio in an interview that the appointment was on the agenda “with full agreement,” and nowhere did it say who would be the minister.
Even though the Basic Law on the Government states that the number of ministers from both blocs in the cabinet will be equal, it does not provide a mechanism for arranging the parity if the number of ministers is not equal, said Peter. The cabinet decision states that the “matter of parity will be expressed only in placing on the agenda,” which will be by agreement, said Peter.
In commenting on Mendelblit’s criticism because he did not receive permission to voice his legal opinion on the proposal to nominate Akunis in real time, Peter said: “The cabinet heard the attorney general’s words, as evidence after the vote he did not raise any new arguments either. The attorney general has an obligation of loyalty to the cabinet to present the law to it, to advise it, to be its lawyer.”
In a letter sent to Netanyahu and Gantz after the meeting, Mendelblit wrote that “the cabinet knowingly and intentionally acted in an illegal manner,” and that Akunis was not appointed justice minister.
According to Peter, the Basic Law on the Government – which was amended to make it fit the government with a prime ministerial rotation and alternate prime minister, did not prepare for a situation in which it was necessary to appoint a new minister in place of one whose term had ended. “The relationships determined are not to the ministries. The Justice Ministry is not registered in the Land Registry in the name of any bloc or another.” But Peter did state that Netanyahu would accept “any decision of the Supreme Court, including the decision now to freeze the appointment.”
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Politicians from the “change bloc” criticized Akunis’ appointment on Tuesday night. Gantz said that Netanyahu “tried in a planned and intentional manner to trample the rule of law. Tried and failed.”
The chairman of New Hope, MK Gideon Sa’ar, tweeted that “the saga surrounding the (non)appointment of the justice minister that reached its peak now in the deranged cabinet meeting is additional testimony of the critical need to replace [Netanyahu].”
MK Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, said “anyone who thought even for a minute of signing any agreement with Netanyahu received a reminder that there is no chance at all that he will keep his part in any agreement.
“If there is someone who still thought that Netanyahu needs to sit at the cabinet table – today they received a reminder that he needs to go already. The crude contempt for the rule of law, for any agreement he has signed, the lies as a way of life – all this broke out today over the appointment of a justice minister,” said Lapid.