Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presided for the first time over his third
government Monday evening, holding a cabinet meeting in his office shortly after
the ministers were sworn in at the Knesset.
At its first session, the
cabinet approved a seven-man security cabinet – much smaller than the outgoing
15- member body – that is empowered to deal with the country’s critical national
In addition to the five ministers who must by law be
part of that key forum – Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public
Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni – two other ministers were brought in: Economy and Trade
Minister Naftali Bennett and Communications and Home Front Defense Minister
The cabinet also selected its Shin Bet (Israel Security
Agency) oversight committee, which in addition to the five permanent members of
the security cabinet will now include International Affairs Minister Yuval
Two other pressing matters of business were the approval of an
extension to pass a budget and a bill to extend the tenure of the current chief
rabbis by another four months, during which time new elections for their
positions will be held.
Late Monday night, in agreement with the
opposition, the ministers unanimously passed a timetable for a new 2013 budget,
according to a Finance Ministry spokesperson.
Lapid had intended to
introduce a bill requesting to expand the 45- day deadline up to a 120 days, but
faced opposition from Labor. Instead, the agreement, to be read in the full
Knesset on Tuesday, gives the government 85 days to submit the budget and 50
days to pass it through the required three readings before lawmakers, meaning
the final budget must be in play by August.
Netanyahu opened the cabinet
meeting by saying he was moved at presiding over the first meeting of his third
“This is not something that is a given; nothing here is a given,
and the heavy responsibility is now on all of us,” he said. “The responsibility
and the privilege.”
Of the three governments he has headed, Netanyahu
said, he did not remember a more challenging period in terms of the potential
dangers, on the one hand, or a period of more opportunities, on the
“I think we can answer all the challenges,” he said.
are starting a new government today and also clearing the table, placing all the
divisions to the side.”
Netanyahu praised his new ministers as being
fresh, experienced and talented, and said the only way to succeed would be
through cooperation and unity.
Lapid said at the beginning of the meeting
that he was keyed up.
“On his first day in the Knesset my father [Tommy
Lapid] bought himself a briefcase,” he said. “I have come with that briefcase
and am very excited.”
Bennett said the current government presented many
opportunities and that he was enthusiastic. Livni said that a way would be found
to move the diplomatic process forward.
“I hope we will do good,” she
The cabinet also approved the appointment of the following deputy
ministers: Ophir Akunis (Likud Beytenu) as deputy minister for liaison with the
Knesset; Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) as deputy religious services minister;
Danny Danon (Likud Beytenu) as deputy defense minister; Ze’ev Elkin (Likud
Beytenu) as deputy foreign minister; Tzipi Hotovely (Likud Beytenu) as deputy
transportation minister; Faina Kirschenbaum (Likud Beytenu) as deputy interior
minister; Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) as deputy welfare and social services
minister; and Avraham Wortzman (Bayit Yehudi) as deputy education
Following the meeting, the ministers went to the President’s
Residence for the traditional group picture.
Niv Elis contributed to this