Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, December 23rd, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced criticism on Monday for his decision to not appoint a new full-time aliyah and integration minister in place of Sofa Landver, who quit last month.
There had been speculation that Netanyahu would give the post to one of the deputy ministers who sought it, Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) or Michael Oren (Kulanu).
Instead, Netanyahu gave the post on an interim basis to Tourism Minister and Ministerial Liaison to the Knesset Yariv Levin, who will hold it along with his two other portfolios. Because Levin was appointed without a Knesset vote, he can hold the post for up to three months, but because elections have been called for April 9, he will be the minister until the next government is sworn in.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman told The Jerusalem Post that “Netanyahu proved his scorn for absorbing immigrants by not appointing a full-time minister.” Liberman said Netanyahu “threw a bone at complaints he holds too many portfolios.”
Liberman also noted that Levin insulted Diaspora Jewry in February 2016 when he said that the Western Wall’s pluralistic prayer site would not be needed in two or three more generations, because there would no longer be Reform Jews due to assimilation.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who heads the Reform Movement in Israel said the Aliyah and Integration Ministry plays a key role in the relationship with Diaspora Jews, who have been a target of Levin’s criticism in the past.
“It is unfortunate that the post was given to a minister who does not miss a chance to clash with non-Orthodox streams and heighten tension with Diaspora Jewry,” Kariv said. “Netanyahu should have at least conditioned the appointment on Levin apologizing for his slander.”
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson said the appointment “proved how cynical the prime minister is.” Hasson said Netanyahu was “mocking the Israeli public and Diaspora Jewry” and “proved that he cares only about himself.”
The challenges awaiting Levin include 800 potential Ethiopian immigrants waiting in a transit camp in Gondar, French aliyah numbers that are down, and a feeling that his ministry discriminates in favor of Russian-speaking immigrants.
Levin thanked Netanyahu for putting his trust in him.
“It is an honor to deal with Zionist missions like encouraging aliyah and absorbing immigrants,” he said. “I will do my best to increase aliyah and improve absorption in the short time I have in the post.”
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