(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat came out strongly against the possible appointment of Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin as Jerusalem affairs minister in a fiercely worded statement on Tuesday.
Netanyahu decided to give Elkin the additional portfolio to compensate him for giving up the Strategic Affairs Ministry to the Likud’s No. 2, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
Barkat said the decision to form the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry anew was made against his wishes and contradicted Netanyahu’s promise and a cabinet decision made on Jerusalem Day that the Prime Minister’s Office would be in charge of advancing Jerusalem in partnership with the mayor’s office.
“Jerusalem is not a consolation prize for anyone,” Barkat said. “It would be unfortunate if narrow political considerations result in public funds being wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy that would make it harder for the government and city to advance Jerusalem together.”
Elkin told Israel Radio he was happy with Netanyahu’s offer of the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry. He said most governments have had a ministry for Jerusalem Affairs.
“I understand Nir Barkat wanted to be Jerusalem affairs minister himself but it didn’t work out,” Elkin said. “I hope the conflict will calm down and we will be able to work hand in hand.
I intend to put our conflict aside and work together. Cooperation for Jerusalem is above personal anger and emotions.”
Erdan, who was appointed as public security, strategic affairs and public diplomacy minister on Monday, 11 days after the rest of the cabinet, told Israel Radio Tuesday morning that he received the resources that justified entering the government.
Responding to Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely saying that he received mere “honorary titles,” Erdan said he respected Hotovely and that she was not aware of the extent of what he received in the deal he reached with Netanyahu.
It was not clear Tuesday night whether Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin would have to quit the cabinet to make room for Erdan. The Likud was given 12 ministers in the coalition deal and Erdan became the 13th.
Officials close to Netanyahu said they would ask the other coalition parties whether Begin could stay. But sources in the parties told The Jerusalem Post
that the answer would be no.
“Netanyahu will not get a free pass at our expense,” said a spokesman for United Torah Judaism.