MK Ophir Akunis .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
If Communications Minister Gilad Erdan turns down Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s offer to become ambassador to the United Nations, another Likud MK could take the plum post instead: Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ophir Akunis.
Erdan had intended to accept the offer before Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced last Wednesday that he was quitting and taking a break from politics.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately offered Sa’ar’s portfolio to Erdan, who is the thirdranked politician in Likud behind Netanyahu and Sa’ar.
In a speech at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast in Rishon Lezion Sunday night, Erdan said he had not decided yet which post to accept. He was well received at the event, as were Akunis and Rishon Lezion deputy mayor David Bitan, who would enter the Knesset if Erdan leaves to accept the UN job.
“If I was offered to become ambassador to the UN, I would seriously consider it,” Akunis said in private conversation.
“I love representing Israel abroad and helping ensure that the truth will come out.”
Akunis has good relations with Liberman, sources in Yisrael Beytenu said. It was Liberman who hired Akunis to Netanyahu’s staff in 1996 when Liberman was director-general of the Likud. When he formed Yisrael Beytenu, he offered Akunis to become spokesman of the new party.
Should Akunis receive the post, he would follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Netanyahu, who was ambassador from 1984 to 1988 and used the post as a stepping-stone to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Akunis regularly posts on Facebook in English. He has represented the government at events in the US twice in the past six months.
Netanyahu told Likud ministers Sunday morning that he would not make any political appointments until after he returns from his visit to New York and Washington on October 3.
The prime minister did offer the Interior portfolio to Erdan in a phone conversation. But Netanyahu intimated that other political appointments would have to wait because he is concentrating on his preparation for his meeting with US President Barack Obama and his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
“I heard that there has been commotion about appointments,” he told ministers.
“When I return from the US, whoever wants can meet with me [on this matter].”
Sa’ar, Erdan, and Negev and Galilee Minister Silvan Shalom were noticeably absent from the meeting.
Netanyahu, who said nothing about Sa’ar in a speech Thursday to mayors who had been under the interior minister’s jurisdiction, took the opportunity on Sunday to praise him.
“He accompanied me for many years politically and accomplished many reforms in the Education and Interior ministries, most importantly regarding infiltrators [illegal migrants],” he said.