Netanyahu cronies vow he will lead foreign policy

Netanyahu has faced criticism for appointing the hawkish Hotovely rather than MKs Tzachi Hanegbi or Avi Dichter, who both are more moderate.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 17, 2015 01:32
4 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will set the foreign policy of his new government and not Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who opposes a Palestinian state, sources close to Netanyahu said on Saturday night.

Netanyahu has faced criticism for appointing the hawkish Hotovely rather than MKs Tzachi Hanegbi or Avi Dichter, who both are more moderate, back a Palestinian state and share Netanyahu’s views on foreign policy more so than Hotovely.

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“The policies will be those of the prime minister as they would be had he appointed a foreign minister who was not himself,” said a source close to Netanyahu who was involved in the appointment process.

“Hotovely will implement his policies. She has proven her skills and abilities in the past and she will be a terrific deputy minister.”

Another source close to Netanyahu said there were no other options, pointing out that Dichter turned down a deputy minister post, Hanegbi was needed as chairman of the coalition, and other potential candidates insisted on being ministers.

Hotovely, 36, speaks perfect English, lived in the US as an emissary and has frequently defended Israel in the foreign press. She expressed confidence in her ability to improve Israel’s public diplomacy and foreign relations.

There were no contacts over the weekend between Netanyahu and his No. 2 in the Likud, MK Gilad Erdan, had who insisted on being appointed foreign minister.

Erdan’s associates said no meeting had been set with him.

Erdan took to his Facebook page on Friday morning to clarify his decision to remain outside of Netanyahu’s fourth government, saying the very character of the government is what made him choose not to join. He complained that Netanyahu offered him the Public Security portfolio but not a budget necessary to provide needed resources to the police.

“I had hoped to continue to serve you properly in this government,” he wrote.

“However, unfortunately, the proposal presented to me by the prime minister did not give me the necessary tools to impact the real change we need in the Public Security Ministry.”

Erdan explained that his childhood dream had been to serve the State of Israel and that his place in government was to serve the best interests of the public. He promised to continue to serve faithfully as a member of Knesset.

“Personally, this is a complicated day for me and for all of my good friends who have accompanied me through my political career,” wrote Erdan.

“After a period of about six months where the country had come to a complete standstill, it is time to continue working.”

MK Yariv Levin, who was given the Public Security portfolio at the last minute, in addition to the Tourism Ministry, told Channel 2 on Friday night he expected Erdan to enter the government soon and take the Public Security portfolio.

Hanegbi, who is about to take up his posts as coalition whip and chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Channel 2 on Saturday that Netanyahu’s 61-seat coalition could survive two to three years at the most.

“It will be very difficult to maintain this coalition for the full four-and-ahalf- year term,” he said. “I think everyone understands that. It is possible for it to go the full term, but for that to happen more parties need to join in the coming months.”

Thursday’s swearing in of the government at the Knesset turned chaotic after Hanegbi released a statement to the press denying Netanyahu’s contention – which he made during his remarks to parliament – that he was named coalition whip.

“I was very hopeful I’d be a minister,” he said. “Sometimes there are difficult situations that require concessions.

If I had only thought of my own good, I’d go crazy, I’d feel miserable and I’d be screaming at the top of my lungs. But since I think about the prime minister and I wish for the success of this government and this prime minister, I volunteered to work hard and to suffer for a year.

“The prime minister asked me to do a year of service in the Knesset,” he said. “He told me the obvious – he didn’t have anyone to serve as coalition whip and FADC chairman.”

Hanegbi said there was a “misunderstanding” that led Netanyahu to announce that he had accepted a position prematurely.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman appeared to leave an opening to enter the government when he told Channel 2 he could join if the coalition’s guidelines changed.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said he expected the government to fall in “a number of months,” and told Channel 10 he would be ready to adopt the British electoral system of constituencies.

Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu wanted to adopt an element of the Italian system, which gives bonus seats to the two largest parties.

Herzog may face challenges for the Labor leadership. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told Channel 2 he would consider running, and former party head Shelly Yacimovich, who also may run, said that on economic issues the new government was less bad than the previous one.

Ro Yeger contributed to this report.


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