Steinitz, Ya'alon spar over acting PM title

Following rocket fire on Eilat both ministers release statements using title of acting PM, but Steiniz later proves role is his.

April 17, 2013 18:40
1 minute read.
Yuval Steinitz

Yuval Steinitz 370. (photo credit: Hadas Parush)

Who is acting prime minister while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in London for the funeral of former British leader Margaret Thatcher? The answer proved to be more complicated than expected on Wednesday, when Netanyahu’s office did not announce who would be given the honorary post upon the prime minister’s departure.

According to an antiquated law, Netanyahu must appoint an acting prime minister when he goes abroad.

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In past governments, a permanent acting prime minister was appointed. The post became serious when Ehud Olmert used it as a launching pad to replace then-prime minister Ariel Sharon following the January 2006 stroke that left him incapacitated.

In his last term, Netanyahu did not appoint a permanent acting prime minister, but he alternated giving the post to ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Silvan Shalom, who shared the ceremonial title vice premier.

When the current government was formed on March 18, Netanyahu did not appoint a vice premier or deputy prime minister, so it was unclear who would be acting prime minister when Netanyahu left the country.

Following Wednesday morning’s rocket fire on Eilat, both Ya’alon and International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz released statements using the title of acting prime minister. Spokespeople for both men could not explain why the other was claiming the title.

The dispute ended when Steinitz’s spokeswoman produced a copy of a cabinet decision from Sunday formally proclaiming that Steinitz would be acting prime minister during Netanyahu’s London trip. While sources close to Steinitz said he would be acting prime minister whenever Netanyahu goes abroad during this term, other Likud sources said they were not so sure.

Shalom, meanwhile, conceded and through his spokesman said he had no interest in the meaningless title.

“It’s all much ado about nothing,” Shalom’s spokesman said.

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