A stormy cabinet session and a vote over the appointment of a new justice minister have thrown Israel into yet another political crisis.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz advanced his candidacy to become Justice Minister, following a recent Supreme Court ruling that the vacant post must be filled this week. Gantz’s candidacy was rejected by a vote of 17-10 in the meeting.

Immediately after the initial vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advanced the candidacy of fellow Likud Party member Ofir Akunis, which then passed.

Yet Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit gave his opinion that the snap decision to advance Akunis’s candidacy took place in violation of the coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White parties. According to the agreement, Gantz is given the authority to select candidates for the position, who must then pass a cabinet vote.

“Don’t think that this vote will pass,” Mandelblit shouted during the stormy meeting, prior to the vote according to a report by Kan. “This is an illegal vote,” he added.

Several Blue and White ministers boycotted the vote. After the remaining cabinet members approved Akunis’s appointment, the attorney general said, “The decision has not passed. That is the legal result. Hence, Minister Akunis, whom I hold in great esteem, is not the justice minister.”

Defending the vote, Netanyahu said, “There is an agreed-upon agenda and it includes a discussion on the vote for a justice minister.” Referring to a failed attempt by Blue and White leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to win a vote to appoint himself as justice minister, Netanyahu said, “We tried one candidate, and since he was not elected, we voted on another candidate.”

Blue and White Minister of Agriculture Alon Schuster described the vote as a “terrorist attack against democracy.”

Israel has been without a justice minister since the start of April. Gantz had until recently served a temporary three-month term as acting justice minister, replacing former Blue and White member Avi Nissenkorn, who has subsequently left politics. On Sunday, Israel’s High Court urged Netanyahu and Gantz to reach an agreement on appointing a justice minister.

JNS

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