Defense Minister Benny Gantz hid from two senior ministers in his Blue and White party an agreement he reached with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on senior appointments that failed to secure a key party demand, according to a television report Saturday.
Blue and White denied a report earlier in the week that Gantz agreed to allow the appointment of a new accountant general at the Finance Ministry, which is headed by a lawmaker in Netanyahu’s Likud party, in exchange for appointing a director-general to his office of alternate prime minister.
However, Hebrew media reported Friday that a deal had been reached and a copy of the agenda for Sunday’s cabinet meeting showed a vote would be held to approve the candidates for the two posts.
The deal will not include the approval of a new director-general at the Justice Ministry, a central demand by Blue and White that has long been blocked by Netanyahu, hobbling the ministry’s activity.
According to Channel 12 news, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, Gantz’s senior partners in Blue and White, only learned about the agreement when the agenda for the cabinet meeting was published.
The report said Blue and White officials were angry and disappointed by the deal, feeling that Gantz gave in to Netanyahu on the matter. It did not cite a source.
Lawmakers were also reported to be concerned that the agreement may be part of a broader deal taking shape that would see Gantz agree to further delay the passage of a state budget — providing Netanyahu with an opportunity to create a crisis over the budget later down the road and trigger elections at a more politically convenient time.
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, who is part of Gantz’s Blue and White-led coalition bloc, will forgo participation in Sunday’s cabinet meeting in protest of the appointments deal, according to Hebrew media.
Nissenkorn announced his pick for director-general months ago, but the Prime Minister’s Office has so far refused to bring the matter to a cabinet vote, with Netanyahu having issued a de facto freeze on all appointments of senior officials in Blue and White-controlled ministries — especially the Justice Ministry. Gantz has responded by refusing to allow a cabinet vote on appointments in Likud-led ministries like health and finance.
As part of their coalition agreement, Likud and Blue and White agreed to put off any senior nominations that they were likely to clash over. However, at the start of October, Gantz said it was time to end the “chaos” in the government and fill senior law enforcement posts that have long been manned by temporary stopgaps.
Israel has been without a permanent state attorney since December 2019, with the end of Shai Nitzan’s term. Attorney General Mandelblit has been serving as acting state attorney in recent months.
Similarly, the Israel Police has been without a permanent commissioner since December 2018, when Roni Alsheich’s term ended. Alsheich was a key figure in the graft cases Netanyahu is standing trial over and thus reviled by the prime minister and Likud as one of the figures the premier claims was 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.
On Monday, Mandelblit told the High Court of Justice he believes the state must explain why it has so far failed to appoint a permanent director-general to the Justice Ministry. He said that with no concrete justification given for the failure to move the process forward, he “believes there is no choice” but to subpoena state representatives to respond.
Responding to Mandelblit’s Monday letter, Blue and White said that Gantz had instructed Nissenkorn “to speed up the process of appointing a state attorney and bring it to the government for approval as soon as possible.”
Gantz also called on Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, of Likud, to appoint a police commissioner immediately.
Last month, reversing a previous decision that no committee can currently be formed to name a state attorney due to bureaucratic difficulties, Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz said that due to its importance, the process of finding someone to fill the key post would begin immediately.