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Israel News

High Court appears to demand quick resolution of justice minister vacancy

CM 22/04/2021

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The High Court of Justice on Thursday issued an interim order demanding that the government respond by Sunday at 2:00 p.m. regarding its failure to appoint a justice minister.
Typically, the justices give the government weeks or even months between an initial hearing and needing to provide a final response, suggesting that the court will not give the state much longer to resolve the issue.
In fact, the ruling appeared to apply to all of the vacant ministerial roles, though the justice minister position has taken center stage.
To some extent, the ruling seemed to endorse Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s view that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could postpone the issue, but only until the start of May.
The position has been empty since the start of April when Benny Gantz’s three-month term as acting justice minister expired.
Since then Netanyahu has prevented the appointment of a replacement.
Connected to the justice minister issue and increasing the pressure for a resolution was an issue related to prisoners’ health.

Absent a justice minister, who has the power to exempt prisoners from coming to court hearings in-person in favor of zoom hearings due to coronavirus considerations, many unvaccinated prisoners would have to come to court for every hearing without measures in place to prevent significant infection events between them and the general public.
High Court President Esther Hayut, Justice Neal Hendel and Justice Uzi Vogelman were so upset by the idea that the government was abandoning the health of the general public in the court’s space and the prisoners’ health without proper measures, that they initially demanded a resolution by Thursday afternoon.
Hayut said that, “the lawless space is leading to a situation of extreme unreasonableness.”
Vogelman said, “Appointing ministers is not a political issue – it is an overwhelmingly constitutional and governance issue.”
When the government asked to defer the issue to Sunday of next week, Hendel initially said, “it is impossible to postpone, even until Sunday. We don’t know what the consequences would be.”
By late afternoon, Gantz jumped on the High Court’s comments and demanded an immediate convening of the cabinet to appoint a justice minister.
On Monday, Mandelblit had appeared to take the side of the petitioner, the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, criticizing the prime minister for delaying the appointment and causing major gaps in governance which require a justice minister.
However, Mandelblit also said that given that Netanyahu was only asking for a two week delay, the High Court should likely grant the prime minister’s request.
Implied in Mandelblit’s Monday legal brief to the High Court was that if Netanyahu further holds up the justice minister’s appointment, that he would likely support the court ordering the appointment itself.
On one hand, Netanyahu has wanted to avoid Gantz appointing a minister allied with Blue and White.
At the same time, the prime minister has been able to argue that the government is in transition and could be on the verge of a new government – which would make waiting for the new government appear more logical. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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