Knesset approves Netanyahu as defense minister

When the Defense Ministry became available, Bennett said his Bayit Yehudi party would leave the coalition if he was not appointed to head it.

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December 17, 2018 20:51
2 minute read.
Knesset approves Netanyahu as defense minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, December 2, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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The Knesset approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appointment as defense minister on Monday evening after opposition MKs spoke out against the appointment for nearly three hours.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said that before voting on the matter, lawmakers should examine Netanyahu’s first month on the job.

“He finished off our deterrence in Gaza; [Hamas Gaza chief] Yahya Sinwar is giving victory speeches in the streets,” Lapid began. “There’s a wave of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. In the North, he held press conferences... but the idea should be to calm things down not to heat [them] up, and to make it clear the enemy is Hezbollah and not all of Lebanon. Yesterday, half of his cabinet protested against his policies. That’s after a month on the job. Israel can’t allow him to stay.”

“The problem,” said opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) is “Netanyahu’s personal and political weakness. Once, he was promising in the area of security. He wrote a book on how to fight terror... He told the citizens of Israel ‘I know how to defeat Hamas.’ But then the promises disappeared, and reality came.”

Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) came to Netanyahu’s defense, saying that: “We need to recognize the reality in the Middle East. We are fighting for our existence, combating terror... and still, the challenges are ahead of us, not behind us.”

The defense portfolio opened up when Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman resigned last month, and Netanyahu automatically retained it, as happens to the prime minister when any minister resigns. However, the automatic situation would have lasted for only three months, which is why the vote was needed.

Netanyahu also retains the Foreign Ministry, to which he plans to appoint a minister next month; the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, which he said he would give to someone else this week; and the Health Ministry, which is effectively controlled by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman.


On Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of Bayit Yehudi, abstained from the cabinet vote to approve Netanyahu as defense minister, arguing that someone should have the position full-time.

When the Defense Ministry became available, Bennett said that his Bayit Yehudi Party would leave the coalition if he was not appointed to head it. However, he backed down from his ultimatum within a few days.

The Likud slammed Bennett for being self-serving, while Bayit Yehudi said Netanyahu is not doing enough to fight terror. Still, Bennett and Shaked voted in favor of Netanyahu in the Knesset.

In the speeches before Monday’s vote, opposition whip MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) said that “Bennett and Shaked don’t trust Netanyahu as Mr. Security.

“Iran is growing stronger in Syria – it’s a fact,” said Hasson. “Mr. Security claims he understands security... He is willing to throw the warnings of the Shin Bet chief in the trash... For what? For his childish game against Bennett over who is more right-wing.”

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