Matan Vilnai 311.
(photo credit: Yaakov Katz)
Homeland Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i (Independence) is expected to be named
the next ambassador to China, following an interview he had on Tuesday with the
Civil Service Commission.
Vilna’i’s appearance before the commission is
necessary because he would be a political appointment, not a professional one
from the Foreign Ministry, and all ambassadorial candidates who are political
appointees must be first vetted by the Civil Services Commission.
Vilna’i is approved, as is probable, his appointment will come to the cabinet
for its approval, something expected within a matter of weeks.
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, currently visiting Washington, issued a statement
explaining that he chose Vilna’i for this post because China was an important
country with which Israel was interested in establishing closer ties, and that
it was suitable that Israel be represented there by someone “at the highest
“I am convinced that Vilna’i, who served as a government minister
and was a senior IDF officer, will fill this position in the best way possible
and will put an emphasis on developing the relations between the two countries,”
Vilna’i will be the second ambassador to China coming
directly from around the cabinet table: Ora Namir, who was minister of labor and
social welfare, left that post to become ambassador to China in
Vilnai’s appointment received mixed reviews inside the Foreign
Ministry, where political appointments for such highly sought-after positions –
rather than taking some from inside the ranks of the ministry – are generally
While one official said that Vilna’i would be able to push
through projects with China by virtue of the fact that he is so close to the
country’s leading decision-makers, another said that he did not have a track
record in diplomacy or any particular understanding of China to make him
suitable for the post.
The foreign minister is allowed 11 political
appointments, and Lieberman has so far used up six of them, naming political
appointments to the embassies in Washington, Moscow, Sofia, Kiev and Minsk, and
to the consulate in Boston.
If approved, Vilna’i would be replaced in the
Knesset by former MK Shakib Shanan on the Labor list. The Independence Party
announced Tuesday that it had worked out a deal with Shanan, whereby he would
break off from Labor in order to join Independence. Five then- Labor MKs,
including Vilna’i, broke off from Labor to form Independence in January
Shanan is Druse and lives in Hurfeish in the Upper
Defense Minister and Independence Party chairman Ehud Barak on
Tuesday released a statement praising Shanan and welcoming him to the
“Shakib Shanan is a serious person, I know him well, and I have
no doubt that he will contribute a lot to the Independence Party,” Barak
The Labor Party condemned Shanan and Barak, accusing them of
playing political tricks. “They are a pair that go together,” a Labor
representative said. “Labor continues to rid itself of opportunistic hacks and
by doing so strengthens itself as a party that is ideological and clean.”