Netanyahu backs down on Cabinet appointment of loyalist, averting a constitutional crisis in Israel


(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed down Wednesday from his attempt to install a loyalist as justice minister while he is being tried in court on corruption charges.

The last-minute decision by Netanyahu to allow his political rival Benny Gantz to assume the role of justice minister in a transitional capacity comes as the country awaits the composition of a new government following the national election in March. 

Netanyahu relented following public uproar.

Israel was facing a constitutional crisis after Netanyahu pushed his Cabinet to appoint Ofir Akunis from his Likud party as justice minister on Tuesday in apparent violation of binding agreements with Gantz’s party dating back to the election of March 2020.  The move was deemed illegal by Israel’s attorney general. 

The Supreme Court had set a hearing on the situation for Wednesday evening, but the hearing was canceled when Netanyahu announced he would reverse the Akunis appointment and have Gantz be justice minister. Netanyahu maintains that the Cabinet vote to appoint Akunis was legal. 

Neither Netanyahu’s Likud nor rivals like Gantz’s Blue and White party have secured a large enough bloc of lawmakers to form a coalition. Netanyahu is serving as prime minister on the authority of a previous election. Israel has had four elections in less than two years because of political gridlock. 

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