(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to appoint coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi as a minister in the coming weeks, Likud sources said Tuesday, confirming a report on the Knesset Channel.
Hanegbi held five different portfolios in past governments led by Netanyahu and former prime minister Ariel Sharon, but he has not been a minister since 2006. A lengthy trial that accused him of making illegal political appointments set Hanegbi back, as did his maneuvering between Kadima and the Likud.
When Netanyahu appointed Science, Technology and Space Minister Danny Danon last month, a vacancy opened for a Likud minister. Netanyahu gave Minister-without-Portfolio Ophir Akunis Danon’s portfolio, but Hanegbi could receive Akunis’s former responsibilities related to communications.
At first it appeared that the Likud would not be able to appoint another minister, because United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman was recently promoted from deputy health minister to health minister following a Supreme Court decision. The Likud had received an extra portfolio when the government was formed, at UTJ’s expense. But the parties in the coalition said the Likud should not be punished for the court’s decision.
Netanyahu reportedly also considered promoting Likud MK Bennie Begin. But Netanyahu had promised Hanegbi that he would receive a ministerial post within a year of the government’s formation.
It is possible that Hanegbi will receive the appointment in the beginning of October, before the Knesset returns from its extended summer recess, or that Netanyahu will insist on first passing the 2015-16 state budget, because he needs Hanegbi as coalition chairman to push it through.
Replacing Hanegbi as chairman of the coalition will be a freshman Likud legislator: MKs Yoav Kisch, David Bitan and Yaron Mazuz have all expressed interest in the high-profile job, while MK Jackie Levy has said he does not want the post.
Likud sources said rebellious MK Oren Hazan would not be considered for the job.
The most likely candidate to replace Hanegbi as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is Likud MK Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin-Bet (Israel Security Agency).