High Court says it will hear petition against Gantz’s post of alternate PM

Likud says striking down legislation anchoring new government’s power-sharing mechanism will trigger new elections; watchdog group alleges it changes Israel’s regime system

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz after the presentation of the 35th government of Israel at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz after the presentation of the 35th government of Israel at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

The High Court said Tuesday that it would rule on a petition questioning the constitutionality of the post of alternate prime minister, currently filled by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The court didn’t immediately say when the hearing would take place.

A unity coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Gantz, which ended over a year of political deadlock, included the creation of the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office, which will be held by Gantz for 18 months and then be transferred to Netanyahu as part of a power-sharing deal that allows him to keep the prime ministerial title even after vacating the post.

Netanyahu is charged with corruption in three cases, including bribery in one of them. Unlike other ministers, a prime minister can remain in their post even after an indictment on criminal charges.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which filed the petition, has argued that the law creating the new office constitutes a “fundamental alteration of the regime system in Israel, which can even be regarded as a change of the ruling system.

“The movement demands the cancellation of the law change due to its exploitation by Prime Minister Netanyahu who is seeking to create a new constitutional regime to defend him from criminal charges, and by Gantz who is trying to make that change for short-term political considerations stemming from lack of trust in Netanyahu,” it charged in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate PM and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 7, 2020. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The court has previously thrown out petitions against that law and other measures created by the power-sharing government between Gantz and Netanyahu, saying it could not rule before the laws were passed into law and enacted.

The cabinet last week formally created the office of the alternate prime minister and five more new offices, and approved widespread fiscal reforms that would cut the budgets of most ministries in order to fund their establishment, in a series of controversial changes to Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.

Gantz will get a security motorcade similar to Netanyahu’s due to his new role, with the new security arrangements costing NIS 23 million ($6.6 million) per year, Channel 12 reported last week.

Likud reacted Tuesday to the High Court’s decision by warning that any ruling canceling the alternate prime minister’s office would unravel the entire coalition deal and drag Israel to additional national elections, the fourth since April 2019.

The party said the High Court “doesn’t have the authority to intervene in Basic Laws approved in the Knesset.”

Both Likud and Blue and White told the court that they viewed the new office as a central plank of the coalition deal, asking the court to approve all its clauses and make a decision as soon as possible.

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