Israel's Deputy Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman (C) from United Torah Judaism party attends a meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem September 13, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset passed a law on Wednesday to allow United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman to lead the Health Ministry as a deputy minister.
The cabinet authorized the move and returned Litzman to his former post later in the day.
The law states that a prime minister holding a portfolio for which there is a deputy minister can choose to give that deputy minister ministerial authority.
Litzman said he’s happy to return to the Health Ministry, which he said “is of great value, because it saves lives every day.
“We have many challenges ahead, promoting important reforms and implementing the things we have agreed upon, among them nursing reform, dental care for adults and youngsters up to 18, and improving healthcare in the periphery,” Litzman said. “I am returning to serve the public full-time, with a mission and responsibility to promote the health system for the good of all Israeli citizens, without any difference between population groups.
The change is part of a compromise package between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties. The agreement came after Litzman, by order of the Grand Rabbi of Gur, resigned as health minister so as not to have ministerial responsibility for violations of Shabbat, in this case government-approved railway work.
Litzman was deputy health minister under Netanyahu from 2009 to 2013 and held that post in 2015, when the government was sworn in, but Yesh Atid petitioned the High Court of Justice against the practice of a deputy minister having ministerial authority. The court concurred, so Litzman became a full-fledged minister, a historic moment for UTJ, the Ashkenazi-Haredi bloc. He held that post from May 2015 to November of last year.
In order to return to the previous situation, with Litzman as deputy minister, the Knesset had to pass a new law.
The bill could also apply to Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), but she said she does not currently plan to ask for more power.
Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said the law “improves the situation in the sense that it will give more authority to the deputy health minister, which is very important.”