(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed his appointment of Minister-without-Portfolio Ayoub Kara as communications minister in the cabinet Sunday, pending the Knesset’s approval Monday.
Netanyahu insisted on keeping the portfolio for himself when his government was formed, but the High Court of Justice forced him to give it up in February, due to a myriad of conflicts of interest.
For three months, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi held the portfolio on an interim basis. The interim appointment ended a week ago, and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit permitted Netanyahu to hold the portfolio for a week, due to the visit of US President Donald Trump.
Hanegbi told Netanyahu that he was not interested in keeping the portfolio on a permanent basis, as he prefers his unofficial role as a diplomatic emissary of the prime minister. Netanyahu has sent him to the US, Australia, England, Brussels, Costa Rica and Panama.
Before turning to Kara, Netanyahu offered the job to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who turned it down. Hanegbi was told in advance about Kara’s appointment by Netanyahu, with whom he met Saturday.
In the period ahead, decisions will be made in the Communications Ministry about splitting Channel 2 into two separate channels and what will happen to its news division.
Kara, who is Druse, was initially a deputy minister in the Regional Cooperation Ministry under Netanyahu, but lost the portfolio when Hanegbi became a minister. He is expected to loyally carry out Netanyahu’s plans for the Communications Ministry.
Likud ministers who were disappointed they were not given the portfolio privately accused Kara of being a “yes man” who would do Netanyahu’s bidding. They said that Kara had made a fool of himself in the past, when he sought hospitalization as a gimmick to get a portfolio and when he said Israel would send robots to assassinate Hamas and Hezbollah leaders.
But Kara’s work in the Regional Cooperation Ministry has been praised. He initiated projects and advanced others involving cooperation with Muslim countries, including Jordan and Turkey. Some of the projects helped further the economic development of the Palestinians.
The top accomplishment of the ministry under Kara was the Red Sea to Dead Sea pipeline, designed to help revive the Dead Sea. Factories are being built to treat water and provide electricity for use by Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians.
He received the news of the appointment while on a diplomatic mission to Norway.
Kara’s spokesman said he would not discuss the appointment until he is sworn in on Monday.
Opposition MKs criticized the appointment.
Zionist Union MK Miki Rosenthal said Kara would be the prime minister’s puppet.
“Netanyahu will remain the real minister of communications and anything else is a smokescreen,” said Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, a former chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.