Menahem Eliezer Moses 248 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Sources in Likud said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was planning to appoint a health minister with full responsibility, Israel Radio reported Thursday.
The surprise move came after Netanyahu made an agreement with United Torah Judaism (UTJ) that he would give one of their MKs the position of deputy minister but would not appoint a minister superior to him.
According to the Israel Radio report, one of the ministers without portfolio will take over the ministry, though The Jerusalem Post could not verify the report.
Potential candidates for the position could be Likud ministers Michael Eitan or Bennie Begin, both of whom come from a science backgrounds. A decision by Netanyahu to appoint a health minister would be a reversal of political strategy.
On Wednesday, United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Moses was informed that he will be deputy minister in charge of a minister-less Health Ministry amid protests from public health experts that a full-fledged health minister is needed in the third-largest government ministry. Netanyahu's intention not to appoint a health minister was formulated during coalition talks, before the government was presented.
Moses will replace Ya'acov Ben-Yizri, the 83-year-old health minister from the defunct Gil Pensioners Party who was considered by most as politically very weak and unsuited to the task.
UTJ has had several MKs who served in government posts but never as ministers because as a "non-Zionist" party, it avoids such positions. Moses just became an MK and already will control the important ministry.
On Monday, Netanyahu's decision was blasted by disappointed health experts as a decision that will harm the level of health services in the country.
Kadima MK Rahel Adatto - a gynecologist and lawyer who, if her party were in the coalition, would have gladly taken the post eschewed by prospective ministers - said on Monday that "it seems nobody in the Netanyahu government seems to want to be health minister.
"There are always lots of problems, services to be provided and a shortage of money," she said. "The portfolio was hardly ever attractive. It deals with sick people lying in hospital corridors, cancer, life and death. Sadly, it has rarely gone to senior and powerful ministers. The weaker they are, the less money allocated for health by the Treasury."
In addition, a health minister is not free to make political appointments, as doctors and other professionals fill most positions, experts say.
Adatto said this attitude is unfortunate, as the Health Ministry is the country's third largest, with a NIS 24 billion budget and huge responsibilities and services that affect the entire population.