Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: REINHARD KRAUSE/REUTERS+MARC SELLEM ISRAEL/THE JER)
Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday evening that he will appoint a foreign minister in the coming days, according to Israeli media reports. He will make a televised statement on Sunday at 8 p.m.
Netanyahu will keep the defense portfolio for himself, the sources added.
In the meantime, Netanyahu traveled to the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv to hold his first meeting as defense minister with the Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett's party, Bayit Yehudi, said in response that it did not object to Netanyahu's decision to appoint a foreign minister - expected to be from within Likud - but was still demanding that he give Bennett the defense portfolio. Bennett announced Saturday night that he believed he could restore Israel's deterrence "put it back on the track to winning" if he became defense minister in place of Avigdor Liberman who resigned last week.
Also Sunday, Bayit Yehudi said its Knesset members would not vote with the coalition if Netanyahu stands behinds his decision to dismiss Bayit Yehudi MK Eli Ben-Dahan.
"In the past few hours, we have worked with the Prime Minister's Office in order to prevent the unfair decision of dismissing the Deputy Minister of Defense, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, for no reason," a Bayit Yehudi press release stated.
"There is no reason to fire an entire team of deputy ministers and advisers, and send some families to immediate unemployment, because of an inexplicable whim," the press release continued.
The political party repeatedly tried to request the Prime Minister's Office to change its decision, but the Prime Minister remained wavered by the pleas.
Bayit Yehudi MK Eli Ben-Dahan lost his job as deputy defense minister Sunday, amid the coalition crisis.
Ben-Dahan had been deputy defense minister, but after Avigdor Liberman’s resignation from the Defense Ministry
officially took effect, Ben-Dahan automatically lost his title.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who retained the defense portfolio, did not agree to hold a vote to bring Ben-Dahan back in Sunday's cabinet meeting. Coalition partners threatened to trigger an early election over the weekend, and Netanyahu has been working on trying to prevent that from happening.
“This political crisis caught me in the middle of many projects for reservists, disabled veterans, residents of Judea and Samaria and many more subjects,” Ben-Dahan said, adding that his portfolio is “part of the coalition agreement, and my continued actions in the Defense Ministry are not connected to the future of the coalition, as that does not hinder the work of the rest of the ministers.”
Ben-Dahan also said that Netanyahu could have the ministers vote over the phone to bring him back.
Bayit Yehudi released a statement accusing Netanyahu of “abuse” towards the party in firing Ben-Dahan.
“This is an unfair action and an injustice towards an honest public servant with values,” the party’s spokesman said. “The prime minister would not treat any other party this way. He is an excellent deputy minister whose staff will immediately lose their jobs. We call on the prime minister to reverse his decision.”
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