Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting of cabinet ministers in Jerusalem, May 30, 2016.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
The cabinet on Monday morning unanimously approved Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman as defense minister as a looming coalition crisis dwindled and the government moved to expand its membership.
In the cabinet meeting, Yisrael Beytenu member Sofa Landver was approved as Immigration and Absorption Minister and the ministers voted in favor of the Likud's Tzachi Hanegbi as a minister without a portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office.
After the vote, Welfare Minister and Chairman of Likud's Central Committee, Haim Katz, welcomed Yisrael Beytenu into the governing coalition.
"The addition of Yisrael Beytenu's members into the coalition reflects the will of those who voted, it strengthens the national leadership and helps the government to continue to promote measures to improve the well-being of Israel's citizens," the minister said in a statement.
He wished the incoming defense minister success in his new position, adding that he was confident Liberman would "stand firm in the face of security challenges."
Late Sunday night, the coalition crisis, which threatened to thwart Yisrael Beytenu's entry into the government and potentially result in a national election, was averted, paving the way for Liberman to become defense minister.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett announced over social media that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had come to an understanding over how the security cabinet operates.
Bennett had been demanding that a military secretary regularly brief the security cabinet, which consists of senior MKs including the Bayit Yehudi leader. Until the change, Netanyahu and the defense minister could in principle control the information flow from the military and security services to the remaining members, ultimately influencing the decisions of the cabinet.
According to a Facebook post some minutes after his initial tweet on the subject, Bennett said that as of Monday, "there will be a military secretary" appointed to brief the security cabinet.
"I would like to thank (UTJ leader) Ya'acov Litzman for bringing about the solution (to the crisis)," Bennett wrote, adding that he also wanted to thank Netanyahu for accepting the proposal, which was "for the good of the IDF and its soldiers."
As per the terms of the agreement, the head (or deputy head) of the National Security Council will be at the security cabinet's disposal to brief its members on developments pertaining to national security.
Netanayhu's former national security adviser, Maj.-Gen. (res) Ya'akov Amidror, will also be appointed to propose ways in which the security cabinet's work can be further reformed.
Bennett and other senior figures have been vocally critical over the operation of the cabinet, which is responsible for making critical decisions, such as authorizing the deployment of IDF ground troops.
The current situation, where the security cabinet were not guaranteed to have been informed on all the relevant information before being called for a vote, had led to a situation whereby the prime minister, minister of defense and the security establishment were able to choose to withhold information from the remaining cabinet members, leaving them in the dark.
Bennett, clearly keen to move on from the crisis, concluded his post: "The Jewish nation won. Back to work," indicating that even in the early hours of Monday morning, the matter was already yesterday's news.
Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman, MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, said in reaction to the agreement that she welcomed the compromise, saying the move "Exercises the voters' will to form a right-wing government, while streamlining the critical work of the security cabinet."
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman also welcomed the resolution of the crisis, saying, "My hope is that the government will expand and continue to work for the good of the citizens of Israel, with God's help."
The vote to expand the government was set for Monday afternoon, and the Knesset is due to swear-in the new ministers on Monday night.