Ya'acov Litzman leaving Health Ministry

Blue and White wants post for doctor

Yaakov Litzman at the weekly cabinet meeting, March 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yaakov Litzman at the weekly cabinet meeting, March 2020.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Unpopular Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has made a final decision to leave his post in favor of the Construction and Housing portfolio.
Litzman told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday he would agree to switch portfolios as long as the Construction and Housing Ministry will include the powerful Israel Lands Authority. Litzman’s rabbi, Gerrer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter, told him the Construction portfolio was needed to help his haredi (ultra-Orthodox) constituency.
Blue and White is expected to ask for the Health portfolio and while it was earlier expected to trade the Foreign Ministry for it and make MK Gabi Ashkenazi the next health minister, Ashkenazi said on Saturday that the party wanted the post for a professional appointment.
The party’s candidate would be Sheba Medical Center director-general Dr. Yitshak Kreiss who is a reserve brigadier general and was close to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz during their time in the IDF.
Ashkenazi does not want to give up the Foreign Affairs portfolio because he wants to be involved in applying sovereignty in July and to limit its scope as much as possible.
Another possibility is that Ashkenazi would give up the Foreign Ministry and it would be given to former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, or that Ashkenazi would keep it and drop Blue and White’s veto on Edelstein returning to his old post.
The official response from Blue and White was that the party wants the Health portfolio but does not negotiate through the media.
An official in Litzman’s office told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “talk and rumours like this did not start today,” adding that “There is pressure from here and there,” but that “no decision has been made.”
Litzman met with Netanyahu on Thursday afternoon to discuss the issue, which had been previously discussed due to Blue and White’s original demands that it take control of the Health Ministry – demands which were then rejected.
The minister has been criticized for his handling of the coronavirus epidemic, although Channel 12’s report stated that politicians involved in the matter have stated that his shift to another ministry is not related to such criticism.
A Channel 13 poll last week found that 67% of the public was unsatisfied with Litzman’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. By contrast, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett have received positive grades from the public in polls.
Bennett, who will be giving up the Defense portfolio which will go to Gantz, has refused to answer questions about whether he would be interested in the Health portfolio.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.