Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally had his government approved by the Knesset following a day of difficult and protracted talks with fellow Likud MKs to assign ministerial portfolios.
President Reuven Rivlin announced that the new government would be sworn in at 7pm at the Knesset, but the plenary session was postponed until 9pm as the government’s composition remained unconfirmed. Some appointments were relatively straightforward, with Moshe Ya’alon remaining as Defence Minister, Yuval Steinitz as Minister for Energy and Infrastructure and Yisrael Katz as Transport Minister and Intelligence Minister. Yariv Levin was also handed two portfolios, becoming both Tourism Minister and Public Security Minister.
Most surprising though was the decision by Gilad Erdan, who topped the Likud primaries prior to the general election, to remain outside the cabinet after his demands were not met. A last-minute addition was Silvan Shalom, who consented to become Interior Minister, having initially rejected the offer. Similarly, Miri Regev eventually agreed to become Minister for Culture and Sport while Tzachi Hanegbi was appointed chair of the influential Knesset Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee only after it was agreed that he would join the cabinet after a year as a Minister without Portfolio in place of Ofir Akunis. Benny Begin will also be a Minister without Portfolio.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu himself will hold the foreign affairs portfolio with the intention of using it as an incentive to eventually expand the cabinet. Yesterday, he appointed Tzipi Hotovely as Deputy Foreign Minister and she will effectively oversee the everyday running of the ministry.
During yesterday’s Knesset session, Netanyahu also confirmed the ministerial roles to be filled by his coalition partners. Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett will be Education Minister, his colleague Ayelet Shaked will serve as Justice Minister. Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon is the new Finance Minister and party colleague Yoav Galant will be Housing Minister. Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri is the incoming Economy Minister and United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman will serve as deputy health minister.