Bennie Begin went from minister without portfolio to MK without any other title Sunday, two days after he tendered a resignation letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without making his actions public.
After Begin’s absence from Sunday’s cabinet meeting caught the notice of members of the press, cabinet secretary Avihai Mandelblit released a letter he sent to all ministers stating that Begin resigned on Friday and that the resignation goes into effect 48 hours later.
Likud sources said there is a good chance Begin will resign from the Knesset, which would make Sharon Haskel, 31st on the Likud list, an MK.
Netanyahu asked heads of other coalition parties to allow the Likud to have 13 ministers instead of the 12 mentioned in coalition agreements, after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan was sworn in last Monday, 10 days later than the rest of the cabinet.
Their assent would have allowed Begin to remain in the cabinet, but they would not agree.
The problem may be solved by August, when Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor is expected to leave his post, as Minister Without Portfolio Ophir Akunis is thought to be a candidate for the position.
“If I am offered the position, I will favorably consider it,” Akunis told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. “I believe that there are many ways to serve the State of Israel and the people of Israel, especially at this time, when we need to repel international pressures and delegitimization campaigns led by the Palestinians.”
Netanyahu paid tribute to Begin – whom he personally appointed to the Likud list before the election – in a Facebook post Friday, calling him “a man of values with great experience and talent, one of the pillars of the Likud,” and vowed to “make every effort to bring him back.”
Meanwhile, National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of the security cabinet, said he would not agree to a rotation with Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, whereby in six months the former would become an observer and the latter would become a full member.
Elkin lost his title as strategic affairs minister when Netanyahu gave Erdan the title last week. Elkin was given the Jerusalem portfolio and a rotation in the security cabinet instead, after he threatened to vote against the coalition.
In the Knesset this week, lawmakers are expected to begin working in earnest on legislation and overseeing government activity, with parties submitting their representatives’ assignments to committees.
Much of the Knesset’s activities were put on hold for two months after its inauguration, because parties could not agree which titles should go to which MKs, leading Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to write a letter last week demanding that party leaders make decisions as soon as possible.
Zionist Union MKs Eitan Cabel and Shelly Yacimovich are still competing over the position of Knesset Economics Committee head, and may have to agree to a rotation.
MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) hopes to be faction chairwoman, but party chairman Isaac Herzog is reluctant to appoint her to the job, with sources close to him saying that putting her in such a high-profile position would paint the party as far left.
MKs Hilik Bar and Omer Bar-Lev, whose political positions are closer to Herzog’s, also seek the position.
In addition, Zionist Union and Yesh Atid are squabbling over the Knesset State Control Committee, which Yesh Atid wants MK Karin Elharar to run. Zionist Union would like a rotation for the chairmanship.
In the Likud, MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who is already coalition chairman, will also lead the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
MK Abraham Naguise will head the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee. MK David Bitan will be chairman of the Knesset House Committee for a year, at which point he will become deputy transportation minister, and MK Yoav Kisch will take his place at the helm of the politically sensitive panel. In addition, MK Jackie Levy will be deputy housing minister and MK Yaron Mazuz will be deputy national infrastructure minister for a year.
MK Miki Zohar is expected to take the challenging position of coalition coordinator in the Knesset Finance Committee, a position that MK Oren Hazan asked Netanyahu to give him.
The prime minister refused, pointing out that Hazan is in last (30th) place on the Likud list. As such, Hazan said he will promote his own agenda independently – though he also said he does not plan to vote against the coalition or skip votes in the Knesset.
As for other positions, MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) will return to the helm of the Knesset Finance Committee, a position he held in the 18th Knesset, and MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) will be chairman of the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee. The Knesset Education and Culture Committee will be led by Shas MK Ya’acov Margi and Kulanu’s Eli Alalouf will be chairman of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee. MK Uri Maklev (UTJ) will lead the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee.
Kulanu has yet to choose a chairman for the Knesset Committee for the Rights of Children, and the Joint List did not announce which of its MKs will head the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women.