Knesset approves Netanyahu continuing as economy minister

When asked his opinion of Monday's Iowa caucus, Netanyahu said with a mischievous smile: "I don't interfere with elections in the US."

February 1, 2016 21:22
2 minute read.
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Netanyahu speaks with CNN's Fareed Zakaria in Davos. (photo credit: screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received approval from the Knesset to remain economy minister Monday after his three months as acting minister expired.

Netanyahu received the portfolio when Shas leader Arye Deri gave it up in early November.

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By law, the prime minister automatically receives abdicated portfolios for 90 days.

During that time, Netanyahu intended to reshuffle portfolios inside his Likud faction.

But he still has not made up his mind, necessitating votes in the cabinet Sunday, which passed unanimously, and Monday in the Knesset, which passed by a 50 to 46 vote.

A source close to Netanyahu hinted that the appointments were coming soon. The most likely scenario remains that Tourism Minister Yariv Levin receives the Economy portfolio and coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi will become tourism minister. But a source close to Hanegbi did not sound hopeful Sunday.

“There have been hints since last November,” the source lamented.

Hanegbi has denied a report that Netanyahu was waiting for a court case against Deri’s appointment as interior minister, but other sources in Likud said they believed it was true.

The Supreme Court will hear the case on February 9.

Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli vowed earlier Monday to stop Netanyahu’s appointment. She cynically complimented him in a meeting with her faction’s MKs.

“We can relax now today because from today we have an economy minister who will take care of our economy, who can help the public find jobs, and prevent our products from being boycotted abroad,” Michaeli said.

“He will be just as terrific as he has been at maintaining our relations with the US as foreign minister and at maintaining freedom of expression at all our media outlets as communications minister. It is a pity he doesn’t also take for himself the Defense portfolio, because maybe then there won’t be terrorist attacks.”

Joint List MK Dov Khenin said in the Knesset plenum that is was chutzpah for the Knesset to approve the appointment of an economy minister who does not even enter his ministry.

“All Netanyahu cares about is advancing the interests of his tycoon friends,” Khenin said.

“That’s why he wants to keep the portfolio. The government should appoint a real economy minister.”

Netanyahu even faced criticism from within his coalition.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) told Israel Radio Monday that Israel needs a full time foreign minister.

During deliberations on the economy minister appointment in the plenum, Netanyahu made a rare appearance in the Knesset cafeteria. He told reporters at his table that his coalition would last a long time.

When asked his opinion of Monday’s Iowa caucus, he said with a mischievous smile: “I don’t interfere with elections in the US.”

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