(photo credit: YOEL LEVI)
All the parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition have agreed to expand the cabinet by one seat for United Torah Judaism’s Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, rather than take a ministerial position away from the Likud, Shas leader Arye Deri told reporters on Wednesday.
Last week, the High Court of Justice ruled that there cannot be any “deputy ministers with the status of a minister,” which is how Litzman was described.
UTJ traditionally did not allow any of its MKs to be officials, in order not to take responsibility for the government desecrating the Sabbath. Its Council of Torah Sages is expected to make a decision on Thursday as to whether or not Litzman can be a minister.
Litzman hinted on Tuesday that the rabbis might not permit him to accept a promotion, speaking during a visit to the Jerusalem office of Bizchut – The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities.
“If required by the Council [of Torah Sages], I will no longer be in the Health Ministry on Friday,” Litzman said.
When the coalition was formed, the Likud received an extra ministerial position because Litzman was only a deputy minister.
On Thursday, when the cabinet votes to authorize Science, Technology and Space Minister Danny Danon’s appointment as ambassador to the UN, he will no longer be a minister. As such, some thought that Litzman would become health minister instead of a Likud MK replacing Danon.
According to Deri, he, Kulanu leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and Bayit Yehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett all agreed to expand the cabinet by a seat so that a Likud MK can replace Danon and Litzman can be health minister.
“We all appreciate and value Litzman,” Deri said.
A Likud source confirmed what Deri said.
Likely candidates from the Likud to be appointed Science and Technology minister in Danon’s stead are MK Bennie Begin, who was a minister-without- portfolio for a few days this year, and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi.
But a source in Bayit Yehudi said the decision about whether to permit adding another minister to the cabinet was not final.
“There are a number of issues that Kahlon, Deri and Bennett are discussing, including the number of ministers and when to implement the Norwegian Law,” the Bayit Yehudi source said.
The so-called Norwegian Law, which passed into law before the Knesset began its extended summer recess, permits one minister from each coalition party to quit the Knesset in favor of the next name on the party’s candidates list. The minister can return to the Knesset in place of his replacement if he resigns from the cabinet.