Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit asked the High Court of Justice on Thursday to issue an injunction forcing the government to appoint a new permanent police commissioner, a position that has been vacant for almost two years.
Responding to a petition asking the court to force the government’s hand, Mandeblit said he supported issuing a court order that would oblige Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to submit a candidate to the senior appointments committee “as soon as possible.”
Mandeblit said in a letter to the court that “no reason has been presented that could legally justify refraining from advancing the appointment of a permanent commissioner” and that he believes “there is no choice but to issue a conditional order in this petition regarding bringing a candidate for commissioner to the committee.”
The Israel Police has been without a permanent commissioner since December 2018, when Roni Alsheich’s term ended. Alsheich was a key figure in Netanyahu’s criminal probes and was reviled by the prime minister and Likud as one of the figures claimed to have been involved in an attempted coup against him. Motti Cohen has been acting police chief since Alsheich’s departure and has had his tenure extended several times.
Mandelblit has previously said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t be the one to appoint top law enforcement officials due to a conflict of interest, as he is facing criminal charges.
Netanyahu’s lawyers have pushed back against the attorney general’s instructions, and the High Court of Justice earlier this month instructed Netanyahu to explain within 30 days why he claims he is not obligated by Mandelblit’s conflict of interest arrangement.
In their coalition agreement, the Likud and Blue and White parties agreed to put off any senior nominations that they were likely to clash over. However, at the start of October, Defense Minister and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said it was time to end the “chaos” in the government and fill senior law enforcement posts that have long been held by temporary appointees.
In addition to the lack of a permanent police commissioner, Israel has been without a permanent state attorney since December 2019, with the end of Shai Nitzan’s term. Mandelblit, the attorney general, has been serving as acting state attorney in recent months.
Last month, Mandelblit wrote to Netanyahu and Gantz to request that they remove any opposition to filling several key public service positions currently without permanent officeholders, including that of the police commissioner.
“I ask you to act without delay in accordance with your powers under the law to promote permanent appointments to senior positions in the civil service,” Mandelblit wrote to the premier and defense minister.
Responding to Mandelblit’s Thursday letter to the High Court, Gantz called for “the appointment of a commissioner, a state attorney and to complete all appointments as soon as possible.”
“It is impossible to keep a state on hold,” he wrote on Twitter, in an apparent reference to Netanyahu.