The High Court of Justice said Tuesday evening that it would issue a ruling at 3.30 pm the following day on Likud minister Ofir Akunis’ appointment as justice minister after a contentious cabinet vote on his nomination was disqualified by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
The court imposed an interim injunction to freeze the appointment of Akunis, who currently serves as minister of regional cooperation.
Akunis and his proposer Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have until 11am to present their argument by as to why the former's appointment is valid.
The Tuesday evening court hearing followed a contentious cabinet meeting of raised voices and political maneuvering that culminated in an attempt to install Akunis as justice minister through an impromptu vote that Mandelblit overruled as unlawful as it had not been included in the agenda.
The High Court had convened to consider the issue in a fresh hearing on a petition to compel the government to fill all vacant ministerial positions.
Mandelblit asked the court at the start of the hearing to order the appointment of a justice minister without delay, after the deadline for the government to do so passed without a successful nomination.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, asked the court for a further 48 hours to appoint a justice minister and more time beyond a Sunday deadline to fill the rest of the positions.
In a sign of the hostile relationship between the prime minister and the attorney general who indicted him for corruption, Netanyahu was represented in court by a privately engaged lawyer and not Mandelblit.
A representative of the Movement for Quality Government, which was among the groups to bring the petition, also asked for a temporary injunction on the appointment of Akunis, which the court granted.
The attempt to break the deadlock over the ministerial appointment by the divided government failed when ministers voted down a move by Blue & White leader and defense minister Benny Gantz to return to the ministry on a permanent basis.
All 17 Likud ministers voted against the measure while the other 10 cabinet members voted in favor. Gantz, who is also defense minister, had until recently held the position on a temporary basis.
The subsequent Likud move to give the post to Akunis also ended in failure.
A normally collected Mandelblit resorted to yelling at the Likud ministers for holding a vote that was not on the session's agenda and therefore invalid.
Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust, insisted at the start of the cabinet meeting that a permanent justice minister must only be chosen by the next government.
"Appointing a permanent justice minister now is an artifice. It is better that a permanent justice minister is appointed by the next government," he said.
Netanyahu added however that "if the court obligated us to decide - we will reconvene immediately."
Cabinet ministers had convened to discuss the appointment of a permanent justice minister after High Court warned that the government would be unable to properly function if the position were not filled by the end of day.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu and Gantz on Sunday, urging them to appoint a permanent justice minister within 48 hours.
The ultimatum was issued as part of a High Court ruling that allowed some ministries to remain without someone at the helm after the terms of interim ministers expired.
Gantz served as interim justice minister until the beginning of April and Blue & White sought to claim the position on a permanent basis.
The absence of a justice minister mainly affects oversight, the promotion of processes and the approval of material issues - memoranda of law, the signing of regulations and others. One notable example is the reduction of power of the ministerial cabinet that requires a justice minister on its panel.
Another example is that detainees who are unvaccinated or even infected with coronavirus, are being physically brought into court for remand hearings since there is no justice minister who could sign off on their participation in the hearings via Zoom.
First published: 12:20, 04.27.21