Coalition negotiations between the Likud and the newly formed Independence faction already began late Monday in an effort to replace the three Labor ministers who resigned from the government earlier in the day: Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman.
Ehud Barak received a commitment from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to keep him as defense minister.
It appeared that his close ally, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, would be promoted to Ben-Eliezer’s job, and Ben-Eliezer’s current deputy Orit Noked, who represents Labor’s kibbutz sector, would replace Simhon.
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i will keep his present responsibilities for the home front while being promoted to minority affairs minister.
MK Einat Wilf, who is on maternity leave, will chair the Independence faction and will apparently become chairwoman of the Knesset Education Committee in several months, when she was supposed to receive the post under the coalition agreement between the Likud and Labor.