Negotiating parties split on Likud push to increase number of ministers

Yisrael Beytenu, which proposed the electoral reform, strongly opposes the increase and any change to the law it initiated.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
Likud negotiators pushed for an increase in the number of ministers from the legal limit of 19 including the prime minister, to 21 or 22, but faced resistance from some of the parties hoping to be in the next coalition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to ensure that the Likud has a majority in the cabinet, but has to balance the other parties’ demands in negotiations.
Canceling the law put in place by the outgoing government allowing prime ministers to only appoint 18 ministers and four deputy ministers would help the Likud’s position in coalition talks, allowing other parties to get more portfolios, while increasing the Likud’s number so it maintains a majority.
However, Yisrael Beytenu, which proposed the electoral reform, strongly opposes the increase and any change to the law it initiated.
Shas chairman Arye Deri also came out against a bigger cabinet, for socioeconomic reasons, arguing that the cost of extra ministers’ salaries would be better spent elsewhere.
“We shouldn’t increase the number of ministers. It sets a bad example,” Shas spokesman Yaakov Bezalel explained on Saturday night. “It’s not fair to the low-income population.”
A United Torah Judaism spokesman said the faction is not wedded to the number 18, but that it does not want a “bloated” number of ministers and they oppose ministers without portfolio, which are also against the law since the electoral reform was passed.
Bayit Yehudi and Kulanu said on Saturday night that they do not yet have official positions on the matter.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid took to Facebook to call on Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon to oppose increasing the number of ministers.
Lapid congratulated Kahlon on his likely appointment as finance minister, the job the former held until December.
“If you really care about the citizens’ money, if you really want to bring change, you must stand as a wall today against every attempt to increase the cabinet to more than 18 ministers,” Lapid wrote.
According to Lapid, each additional minister is a “budgetary weight” Kahlon will have to carry.
“People will tell you, don’t worry, it’s just a few tens of millions of shekels, but as someone who had your job before you and dealt with the budget, I am telling you that this is a lie. It is hundreds of millions that you will need to help the handicapped, the elderly and to promote reforms that you believe in,” he added.
Lapid wrote that he is sure Kahlon will not give in, but warned him “not to let them trick you before you enter the ministry and betray your voters before you even started to work.”
Kulanu boycotted coalition negotiations on their first official day Thursday because of reports that Netanyahu already promised UTJ MK Moshe Gafni the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee, and as of press time Saturday night, the party said its stance did not change.
Channel 10 reported Kahlon heard about the promise to Gafni from the press, but a Likud spokesman said Friday that “the prime minister immediately updated Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon on the topic of the Finance Committee and all matters relevant to the negotiations.
“Mr. Kahlon did not learn anything new in these matters from reports in the press,” the Likud spokesman added.