Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu worked this week to build a coalition that
will allow him to have his cake and eat it, too.
The coalition will have
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, but also Shas and United Torah Judaism because, as
Netanyahu’s associates said, equalizing the burden of IDF service must be done
by the secularists and haredim together in order to prevent a rift in the
It will include Yesh Atid, Kadima and The Tzipi Livni Party on
the Left, which will help Netanyahu advance the peace process and keep the
international community off his back. But Bayit Yehudi and his own Likud hawks
will also be there to keep Netanyahu in check.
The cabinet will have to
be large if it includes six parties. But there cannot be too many ministers,
because that is one of Yesh Atid’s key demands.
It is too early to know
exactly who will be given each portfolio. But it is clear what the government
Netanyahu is building will not be: Professional.
In July 2004, The
ran an article about what a truly professional government would
“As the fighting over portfolios in coalition negotiations
begins, it’s time to step back and consider what would happen if Israel had a
professional government, as in other parts of the world,” the article read. “If
ministries could be divided by professional qualifications rather than by
political realities, there would be MKs qualified to serve in every portfolio,
except perhaps in Finance.”
There has been speculation that Yesh Atid
would request the Finance Ministry for a top economist, such as Manuel
Trajtenberg, who headed the government-appointed committee that sought to i m p l
e m e n t demands of the socioeconomic protesters of the summer of
But the newly elected Knesset, which was sworn in this week, is
much more educated and professional than its recent predecessors. If
professional degrees and actual skills were be taken into account when
appointing ministers, as they are for most other jobs in the country, there
would be plenty of qualified candidates to choose from inside the
Chances are that such a cabinet would look very different
from the finished product that Netanyahu must present to President Shimon Peres
by the March 15 deadline to form his government. Clip and save the following
list of possible professional appointments, and compare it to the ministers who
will be sworn in by then.
• Agriculture and Rural Development minister:
Zvulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi) – The only MK who lives on a kibbutz is not your
typical kibbutznik. An evacuee from Gush Katif, he worked in construction and
not in agriculture, but he lives among farmers and understands their needs.
• Communications minister: Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) – He was CEO of Cellcom,
Israel’s largest telecommunications company, for eight years. Who knows better
than he does how much money cellphone companies and other corporations take
unnecessarily from consumers? That makes him the ideal candidate to continue the
revolution begun by outgoing minister Moshe Kahlon.
• Construction and housing minister: Uri
Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) – He built thousands of homes as head of the Council of
Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and, earlier, the Amana
settlement movement. He can employ tactics used to build quickly in Judea and
Samaria in the rest of the country.
• Culture minister:
Merav Michaeli (Labor) – A television personality who is part of the elitist Tel
Aviv clique, she will do her part to improve the “State of the Nation” (the name
of the television show that stars her life partner, Lior Schlein).
Defense minister: Moshe Ya’alon (Likud Beytenu) – Ya’alon is not only a career
military man who rose through the ranks to become IDF chief of General Staff, he
is also humble and a deep, strategic thinker. He headed Military Intelligence
and was smart enough to leave the army rather than take the risk of unilaterally
withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
• Diaspora affairs and public diplomacy
minister: Nachman Shai (Labor) – While current minister Yuli Edelstein is
equally qualified, Shai learned the needs of Diaspora Jews when he headed the
Israel office of the Jewish Federations of North America. He wrote his
doctorate on how to improve Israel’s image abroad and, ironically, presented it
to Netanyahu during US Vice President Joe Biden’s ill-fated visit in May
• Education minister: Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) – Headed Hakol
Lechinuch, an organization that works to improve state education, and ran the
large Petah Tikva yeshiva. Lapid sees him as an education guru who all
sectors can respect.
• Energy and water minister: Ibrahim Sarsour (United
Arab List) – As the longtime head of Israel’s Islamic Movement, he can use his
good connections with countries in the Middle East to get Israel some of their
• Environmental protection minister: Dov Henin (Hadash) – He headed
the Environment Justice Program at Tel Aviv University and chaired the steering
committee of the umbrella organization of the Israeli environmental groups.
However, he is seen as an extremist who would not take into account the rightful
needs of developers.
• Finance minister: Avishay Braverman (Labor) – An
internationally renowned economist who earned a PhD in economics from Stanford
and worked at the World Bank in Washington. He headed Ben-Gurion University of
the Negev for 16 years, helping revitalize Beersheba. But on socioeconomic
issues, he is as far apart as can be from Netanyahu.
• Foreign affairs
minister: Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) – He is not a former diplomat, but neither is
any other current MK. He never even earned a professional degree. Nevertheless,
his appointment would be professional because he has managed to articulate what
a consensus of Israelis believe on key issues. With his British accent,
his charisma comes out in English as well as Hebrew. The international community
will love him.
• Health minister: Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) –
Following the departure of Arieh Eldad and Rachel Adatto, he and Hadash’s Afo
Agbaria are the only medical doctors left in the Knesset. Former Health Ministry
director-general Eitan Hai-Am was going to run for Knesset with Yesh Atid but
decided against it when he was given the 12th slot on the list, which he thought
was unrealistic. Menahem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) ran nursing
• Home Front Defense minister: Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) – As IDF chief
of staff he helped quell the second intifada. A native of Iran, he will do his
best to protect the people of Israel from the leaders of his former country.
Because he was raised poor, he can understand the needs of the underprivileged
who lack proper bomb shelters.
• Immigrant absorption minister:
Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) – The reservoir of potential immigrants from the former
Soviet Union and Ethiopia is dwindling, so it makes sense to appoint an
immigrant from the United States. Who better to inspire American Jews to make
aliya than the first US-born MK to be elected in 30 years? His mother, who was
beaming in the Knesset his week, made aliya just in order to vote for
• Industry, trade, and labor minister: Yair Shamir (Likud Beytenu) –
A Techniontrained electrical engineer, he has headed and served on the boards of
many companies. He speaks perfect English and can promote Israeli
industry around the world. A longtime head of Israel Aerospace Industries, he
would also make a good transportation minister.
• Interior minister: Pick
a mayor, any mayor. Amram Mitzna, Amir Peretz and Meir Sheetrit (Tzipi Livni
Party); Yael German and Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid); and Ya’acov Asher (United Torah
Judaism) all have experience running cities and understanding their needs. There
are many more MKs who have been deputy mayors, and Hadash MK Hanna Sweid has a
doctorate in urban planning.
minister: Pick a lawyer, any lawyer. The Likud has plenty, including Gideon
Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan and Yariv Levin. Yesh Atid has Karin Alharar and
Penina Tamnu-Shata. But the most successful lawyer in the Knesset is Isaac
• Public security minister: Yitzhak
Aharonovitch (Likud Beytenu) – A former deputy police inspector-general, he can
keep his current job. Other former police brass like Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid),
Moshe Mizrahi (Labor), David Tzur (Tzipi Livni Party) and former Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency) head Peri are also qualified.
• Religious services minister: Pick a rabbi, any rabbi.
There are 10 in Shas (every MK but Avraham Michaeli), seven in United Torah
Judaism, two in Yesh Atid and one in Bayit Yehudi. But how about Yesh Atid’s
Ruth Calderon? She started the first secular beit midrash (Jewish study hall) in
the country and oversees a network of 100 study halls throughout Israel that are
open to Jews of all backgrounds.
• Science and technology minister:
Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) – He makes fun of this portfolio, which was held
by his predecessor as Bayit Yehudi head, Daniel Hershkowitz. But he sold
his Internet security company for NIS 145 million and can help build Israeli
hi-tech. Erel Margalit (Labor), who built many companies as the head of the JVP
venture capital firm, would also be a good choice.
• Sport minister: Yoel
Razbozov (Yesh Atid) – A champion judoka and trainer of Lapid, he left the
Knesset’s organized tour for new MKs to check out the parliamentary gym. His
colleague, Ofer Shelach, who is a soccer commentator, could also
• Tourism minister: Danny Danon (Likud Beytenu) – Promoted Israel on
many parliamentary trips to the United States. Built strong relations with
Evangelical Christians. He is a persuasive salesman, he speaks perfect English
and his love for the Land of Israel cannot be challenged. The MKs who went
abroad more than any others in the outgoing Knesset, including Dalia Itzik
(Kadima), Yoel Hasson (Tzipi Livni Party) and Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) have all
been voted out.
• Transportation minister: Uzi Landau – A former
Transportation Ministry director-general (Likud Beytenu), he holds an engineering doctorate in
transportation systems from MIT and served on the boards of El Al, the Israel
Port Authority and the Israel Airport Authority.
• Welfare and social
services minister: Amir Peretz (Tzipi Livni Party) – The pride of Sderot, he
advanced the development town as mayor and defended the poor and disenfranchised
as the head of the Histadrut labor federation.
Former Beersheba deputy
mayor and welfare portfolio holder Avi Wortzman (Bayit Yehudi) could also be a