Netanyahu at cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The cabinet voted on Sunday and the Knesset will vote on Monday on a controversial bill that would enable the next government to have 20 ministers instead of the 18 currently permitted by law and to appoint several deputy ministers.
If passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will begin the process of appointing the Likud’s ministers, deputy ministers and Knesset committee chairmen. All of the ministers will have to be appointed by Wednesday, the deadline for swearing in the new cabinet.
Sources close to Netanyahu said Saturday night he still intends to keep the Foreign Ministry for himself, in hopes of expanding the coalition beyond its current 61 MKs by adding either the Zionist Union, Yisrael Beytenu, or fragments of an opposition faction.
Netanyahu is under pressure inside his party to give the Foreign Affairs portfolio to his No. 2 in the Likud, current Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, which would enable the rest of the Likud ministers who will be appointed to receive a better portfolio.
If the Foreign Ministry remains with Netanyahu, Erdan has asked for the Internal Security portfolio to be added to the Interior Ministry, whose building-planning directorate would be transferred to the Finance Ministry of Kulanu lveader Moshe Kahlon.
Only when Erdan’s role is clear can other ministers know what portfolios they will receive. The only Likud ministers who know what ministries they will get are Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Transportation Minister Israel Katz, who will keep their current jobs.
Besides Ya’alon, Katz and Erdan, current Likud ministers Silvan Shalom and Yuval Steinitz will remain in the cabinet.
Seven other Likud MKs will be appointed ministers. There are 12 Likud MKs competing fiercely for those seven portfolios.
"“There is room for everyone,” Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron told Channel 10 Saturday night when asked about the logjam.
The Bayit Yehudi central committee will convene Sunday night in Nehalim to approve entering the government and confirm that party leader Naf - tali Bennett will become education and diaspora affairs minister, Uri Ariel agriculture minister and Ayelet Shaked justice minister.
Kulanu and Shas also need to distribute their ministries and deputy minister posts. A source close to Kulanu MK Michael Oren, who is being considered for the deputy foreign minister post, said Saturday night “there is always hope.”
There is no guarantee the Likud will succeed in completing the passage of the legislation to enable expansion of the cabinet in time for Wednesday’s swearing-in deadline. In such a scenario, Shas and Kulanu each will have to wait for one of their ministers to be appointed.
Zionist Union faction head Eitan Cabel sent a message to the heads of the coalition with the words “welcome to hell,” vowing to do every - thing possible to prevent the law from being changed.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said he would ask the High Court to block Netanyahu’s plan to expand the number of government ministers in his new cabinet, calling it “political corruption.”
“He is doing this while cheating the public,” Lapid said. “The government said there is no budgetary consequence for Sunday’s decision on expanding the government. I was finance minister. I know how much this costs. This isn’t just a few million shekels like they are trying to spin to the public. This is hundreds of millions of shekels.”
In a preliminary letter addressed to the attorney-general and the speaker of the Knesset, the party wrote: “The truth needs to be said and heard – the prime minister is exploiting the fact that the head of the legislative branch is a member of his party. Otherwise, he would not dare make such harmful and vital changes to the Basic Law by way of an edict passed by a transitional government if he thought he could do so in the proper way.”
Lapid also accused the Zionist Union of not doing enough to protest the cabinet expansion. The Zionist Union responded that Lapid had no right to make such an accusation because he, unlike them, served in Netanyahu’s last government.
“Lapid’s only god is himself,” Cabel said. “But he still should have enough ethics to realize that he still reeks from serving in one of the worst governments of all time.”