(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to fill vacancies in his cabinet by the time the Knesset adjourns for its extended summer recess on August 3, a senior Likud source in the cabinet said on Wednesday.
The source said Netanyahu realizes too many Likud politicians have been angered by his delaying decisions about portfolios for him to get away with postponing the appointments until October.
A source close to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon confirmed the timetable and said Kahlon’s Kulanu party was likely to be part of a reshuffle in the cabinet.
Kahlon is expected to trade the Environment portfolio for the Economy Ministry which is currently held by Netanyahu.
Construction Minister Yoav Galant could be promoted to the Economy Ministry and the Housing portfolio could be given to Kulanu MK Eli Cohen, who is close to Kahlon.
Galant and Kahlon have been fighting since Kulanu was formed and sources close to Kahlon said he wanted Galant out of the Construction Ministry as it is dear to Kahlon’s heart. One possibility is to appoint someone who is not an MK to head the ministry, such as Avigdor Yitzhaki, a former Kadima MK.
Following a report that Netanyahu and Kahlon had already agreed to remove Galant from the Construction Ministry on Saturday night, Kahlon’s spokesman released a statement denying the charges and saying that Kahlon and Galant were in full cooperation and had a terrific work relationship.
The statement said that changes in Kulanu’s portfolios would be decided together by Kahlon and Galant.
Netanyahu reportedly wants Galant, who is a former IDF deputy chief of staff, to join the Likud, in order to replace former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon as the party’s top security figure. If that happens, Galant could be the Likud’s candidate for defense minister in the next election.
Other possibilities for portfolios include Netanyahu giving the Economy portfolio to Social Welfare Minister Haim Katz, expanding his current ministry. Such a move could help Netanyahu in the Likud, because Katz chairs the powerful Likud central committee and law committee.
If the Economy portfolio is traded for the Environment Ministry, the latter could go to Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who gave up the Immigrant Absorption Committee to Yisrael Beytenu when it entered the coalition. Another option is Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi, who is eager to return to the Environment Ministry, a post he held before he was convicted of making too many political appointments in the ministry.
It is possible but unlikely that Netanyahu will appoint a foreign minister. Likud ministers Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan would be the top candidates for the post if Netanyahu gives it up.