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Gantz halts appointments, demanding he be tapped as full-time justice minister

As cabinet votes to fill acting positions set to expire, Blue and White chief stops process and says round of approvals must include him

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset on December 1, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset on December 1, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Flash90)

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Monday stopped a round of appointments of full-time cabinet ministers, protesting the fact that it did not include his own appointment as permanent justice minister.

The vote was being held by phone when Gantz used his power as alternate prime minister to halt the process.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit notified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz on Thursday that they must speedily appoint permanent ministers to replace six acting positions that are set to expire.

Mandelblit warned that the terms of the acting ministers cannot be extended and that the permanent ministers must be approved by ministers and then the Knesset plenum.

Gantz, the defense minister, has also been serving as acting justice minister since January, when his party member Avi Nissenkorn quit the post and left Blue and White to join Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s new party, which has since quit the March 23 Knesset election race.

Blue and White has been hovering around the electoral threshold in opinion polls, and Gantz has been facing calls to follow in Huldai’s footsteps to avoid wasting center-left votes.

Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg attends a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on August 13, 2019. (Flash90)

The cabinet had been set to confirm Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg as communications minister, after Yoaz Hendel vacated the post in December. Gantz has been also holding that post in a temporary capacity, a position that will expire on March 16. His term as acting justice minister will end on April 1.

Ministers had also been set to permanently return the responsibilities for water resources and higher education to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Yoav Gallant, respectively. Both Steinitz and Gallant can only hold those portfolios in a temporary capacity until March 27.

Ze’ev Elkin, who was previously in charge of both portfolios, quit the government to join Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, as did Hendel.

Acting Social Equality Minister Itzik Shmuli will end his term on April 8, and Acting Science Minister Chili Tropper will end his term on April 12.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the 17th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Under Israeli government laws, an interim minister who replaces one who left the position can only be appointed for three months.

As the unity government between Netanyahu and Gantz collapsed over the failure to pass a state budget, various ministers either resigned or were booted from their posts amid a flurry of lawmakers switching allegiances.

Elections are being held on March 23 — the fourth round of voting in two years.

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