Netanyahu forced to appoint justice minister on Tuesday due to probes

Levin, Hotovely touted for plum post; Erdan earmarked for U.N.

June 4, 2019 01:47
4 minute read.
Ayelet Shaked at a meeting, January 17th, 2019

Ayelet Shaked at a meeting, January 17th, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will appoint a replacement for Ayelet Shaked as justice minister by 3:30 p.m. Tuesday when her firing takes effect, in what will be the first step in a major cabinet reshuffling.

Netanyahu told his Likud faction on Monday that he would postpone the reshuffle until early next week in order to hold consultations in the faction and the coalition. This would mean that Netanyahu would automatically become justice minister on Tuesday.

But Justice Ministry officials told the prime minister that he cannot hold the post for even a moment due to his multiple criminal investigations. Sources close to Netanyahu confirmed a Channel 13 report that after lawsuits were threatened against the government, he decided that he had to appoint someone else.

Netanyahu wanted to give the post to his trusted confidant, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who is a former deputy head of the Israel Bar Association. But Levin has said that he does not want the portfolio during a caretaker government when he cannot do any reforms.

Sources close to Netanyahu said it is Levin’s job unless he rejects it. They also said that Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Bezalel Smotrich would not get the post after he spoke about wanting Israel to be run by Jewish law.

The only other candidates suggested have been Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin – who prefers the Education portfolio – and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely – who is in line for a promotion and is a lawyer working on her doctorate in law.

Appointing Hotovely, who is a religious Zionist, could help Likud attract more votes from that sector in the September 17 general election.

“This is one of the most important jobs in the country,” Hotovely told The Jerusalem Post. “Due to my experience as a lawyer, I would have what to contribute. If the prime minister asks me, I will be happy to be part of his government. But I also would be happy to remain in the Foreign Ministry and speak at the upcoming Jerusalem Post Conference in New York.”

The June 16 conference will also be addressed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who Channel 12 reported Monday night is Netanyahu’s candidate to replace Danny Danon as ambassador to the United Nations. Netanyahu’s associates confirmed the report, and political sources said that Erdan’s address in the same city could be seen as an audition for the job.

But Erdan has turned down the post twice before for family reasons. He has not made a decision about whether to accept it this time.

Another name that has been raised for the ambassadorship is former Jerusalem Post contributing editor Caroline Glick, who is also speaking at the conference and announced on Twitter on Monday that she would not run again for Knesset with the New Right Party of Naftali Bennett.

Glick was sixth on the party’s list in the April 9 election. Elyashiv Reichner, Uri Schechter and Amichai Shikli, who were seventh to ninth on the list, will also not be running in the September repeat election.

On Monday, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who will also address the conference, called on Labor chairman Avi Gabbay to reveal a video of Netanyahu that Gabbay recorded on his phone during coalition talks.

When Gabbay was negotiating to join Netanyahu’s government, he asked the prime minister to say on camera that he will not add Liberman to the coalition. Gabbay asked for the commitment after his predecessor Isaac Herzog negotiated with Netanyahu, who instead made a deal with Yisrael Beytenu behind Herzog’s back.

“The prime minister said he was ready to throw away Liberman,” he said. “I hope Gabbay shows everyone what is on his phone.”

The Labor leader responded that he would only reveal the tape when Liberman reveals who paid millions to his daughter Michal when she was 21, which was the subject of a past investigation.

Gabbay met on Monday with former IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan and told him he would permit him to run for Labor leader in the July 2 primary, even though he is not yet a member of the party.

Labor MK Stav Shaffir announced Monday that she would run, but only if the leader were elected in a primary of all the party’s members and not only among central committee members. Channel 12 reported on Monday that former prime minister Ehud Barak is also considering running or forming a rival party, and would gauge his support by taking polls.

Labor MK Tal Russo announced on Monday that he would give up the reserved slot on the Labor list that he was given by Gabbay ahead of the April 9 election. Russo said he would consider running for Labor leader in the primary but if he does not and if there is no new primary for Labor’s Knesset candidates, he would not run.

“I came to politics and the party to effect change and have influence, not to cling to my seat,” he said.

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