Last week’s election didn’t change a thing in the policy of political spin adopted by the Likud party and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister, with the help of yes-men called “ministers,” is continuing to impede proper management of the country. Anything goes as long as it doesn’t undermine the campaign to save the criminal defendant from his legal fate.
On Friday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit urged Netanyahu and his governing partner, Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz, to appoint permanent ministers to replace acting ministers whose terms have expired or are about to expire. He particularly stressed the importance of appointing a justice minister, since “a situation in which the Justice Ministry remains without a sitting minister will cause severe damage to the ministry’s work and the government’s functioning ... The many powers with which the justice minister is imbued, some of them important and significant, will be left with nobody able to exercise them.”
Gantz’s term as acting justice minister expires on April 1. Netanyahu, however, isn’t interested in what’s good for the country, but primarily in what’s good for him. In his view, the attorney general isn’t a public servant seeking to promote good governance, but a brazen bureaucrat who is exceeding his authority and trying to undermine him and his Likud government. The fact that what’s at issue is appointing a new justice minister only increases Netanyahu’s paranoia level, because the last permanent justice minister, Avi Nissenkorn, worked to defend the rule of law, in part by blocking the right wing’s wilder proposals.
After Netanyahu decided to demonstratively ignore Mendelblit’s recommendation and Gantz responded by not allowing the cabinet to meet on Monday, Netanyahu and his mouthpieces launched a new campaign. Gantz is acting irresponsibly, they charged, because he’s “preventing contracts from being signed for millions of vaccines that are needed for Israel’s citizens in preparation for the next round of vaccinations.”
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz were both thrown into this cynical battlefield. The former claimed that “Gantz will set us back by months. Our health isn’t a party to this political battle.” And Katz, with unparalleled chutzpah, said, “We have to separate the management of health and economic affairs during the transitional period from the existing political disputes and those to come.” Both these ministers cooperated closely with a prime minister who deliberately didn’t separate politics from health, or his own good from that of the public; Netanyahu refused to pass a budget solely to create an opening for abandoning the prime ministerial rotation agreement. Yet now, they have the nerve to demand that Gantz act responsibly rather than politically.
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Instead of recycling spin and sowing unnecessary fear among the public, Netanyahu would do better to follow Mendelblit’s advance and appoint permanent ministers. And he should start with the justice minister.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.