Erdan to US and UN helps solve Likud appointment logjam

Bennett says Netanyahu cared only about his own criminal cases and not real reforms in the Justice Ministry

Gilad Erdan attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Gilad Erdan attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accepted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to be Israel’s next ambassador to the United Nations and to the United States, Netanyahu’s office announced on Monday night.
Erdan will replace Danny Danon as ambassador to the UN and Ron Dermer as ambassador to the US. A spokeswoman for Erdan said it is possible to fill both roles and that he will travel between Washington DC and New York.
“I am proud and emotional about the honor to fight for the justice of our cause in the international arena and defend Israel in the face of the challenges ahead,” Erdan said in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu said Dermer would remain in his post until after the US election in November and that Erdan would serve until Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is set to take over as prime minister a year later. Abba Eban served in both roles in the 1950s.
“I’ve known Gilad for many years, his skills and experience and his determination to serve Israel, so I was happy that Gilad accepted my offer,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu met with Erdan on Sunday and tried to persuade him to become an ambassador after rejecting many opportunities to serve as ambassador to the UN in the past.
The appointment of Erdan will allow Netanyahu to promote other Likud figures as he appoints ministers for his next government. Outgoing justice minister Amir Ohana is expected to replace Erdan as public security minister, while the Transportation Ministry that Erdan coveted is set to go to current Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev.
It remains to be seen if former Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will accept Netanyahu’s offer of the Education portfolio. There is still a tight competition for the remaining portfolios that will go to Likud, because there are 15 current Likud ministers and there will be only 10 portfolios for the party if Yamina does not join the government.
Deputy Defense Minister Avi Dichter said that after winning the 10th spot on the Likud list, he must be appointed a minister. He noted that in 2015, Netanyahu appointed the top 14 candidates in Likud as ministers and he was 16th, so he accepted that he would not get a portfolio, but this time he would not accept rejection.
To further help solve the logjam in Likud, Netanyahu asked Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Monday to allow the cabinet to have 36 ministers instead of 30. Gantz did not rule out the possibility.
Gantz announced that the formation of the government would be postponed to 1 p.m. on Thursday instead of Wednesday, due to the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Israel on Wednesday. The delay gives Netanyahu until Wednesday afternoon to try to reach an agreement with Yamina, because coalition agreements must be submitted 24 hours in advance of when a government is sworn in.
Chances of Yamina joining the government took a hit on Monday when Yamina leader Naftali Bennett harshly criticized Netanyahu in an online press conference. Bennett said  Netanyahu cared only about his own criminal cases and not real reforms in the Justice Ministry.
On diplomatic issues, Bennett warned that Netanyahu would create a Palestinian state that Yamina opposes. Bennett said Netanyahu has had chances since 1996 to apply sovereignty to land in Judea and Samaria and never has.
“Levi Eshkol and Menachem Begin applied sovereignty but Netanyahu has not,” Bennett said.
Bennett lamented that Netanyahu did not give him the Health Ministry as part of the new government and vowed to be part of a fighting opposition.
“This is not a national emergency government,” he said. “I didn’t ask for the Foreign Ministry and cocktails and to be foreign minister by Zoom. This [Netanyahu] is not what a man who wants Yamina in the government looks like.”
Bennett warned Netanyahu that if he abandons a political ally on the Right, he would not be able to depend on Yamina when he needs it. He revealed that the Likud offered Yamina three small portfolios but that he rejected the offer, because he wanted real influence over a serious problem like the novel coronavirus.
The Likud reacted by accusing Bennett of joining Balad MK Heba Yazbak in the opposition instead of joining a right-wing government that will apply sovereignty.
Channel 13 reported that Likud offered current Yamina Education Minister Rafi Peretz to be deputy minister of Jerusalem Affairs and other responsibilities if he joined the coalition on his own.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.