Hotovely, Hanegbi, Akunis receive vacant ministries

The cabinet will approve the new appointments Tuesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Tzipi Hotovely as diaspora affairs minister on Monday, making her the first Orthodox female minister in the history of the State of Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Monday.
Netanyahu’s intention to appoint Hotovely to the position was announced earlier in January. But the Supreme Court ruled he had appointed too many ministers in a caretaker government.
To satisfy the court, instead of giving the vacant agriculture and welfare portfolios to Likud MK David Bitan and Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen, respectively, Netanyahu gave them to two allies in Likud who were already ministers. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi will also be agriculture minister, and Science and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis will add the welfare portfolio.
The cabinet approved the appointments in a vote conducted by telephone Monday evening. The appointments do not require Knesset approval.
“I thank the prime minister for his professional and personal vote of confidence,” Akunis said. “The Welfare Ministry is one of the most important ministries. It provides necessary services to the citizens of Israel, who I intend to work for, regardless of who they are.”
Netanyahu made a mistake by appointing Hotovely, Meretz faction head Tamar Zandberg said on Monday. She noted that in a November 2017 interview with i24, Hotovely said American Jews do not understand the reality of life in Israel because they do not send their children to the military or live under the threat of missile fire.
“As deputy foreign minister, Hotovely ridiculed Diaspora Jews and attacked anyone who is not Orthodox,” Zandberg said. “Promoting her to diaspora affairs minister after the damage she already did proves that she did not make a mistake but carried out the policy of the government by criticizing the Jewish world in favor of narrow political deals in the Knesset.”
Netanyahu had tried to appoint Bitan despite his impending indictment for bribery, money laundering, fraud, breach of trust and tax offenses. Bitan withdrew after the Supreme Court ruling and after leaks that he was about to be indicted.
Following his criminal indictments, Netanyahu was given a January 1 deadline to appoint new ministers to positions he was holding while simultaneously serving as prime minister. He was serving as health minister, welfare minister, Diaspora affairs minister and acting agricultural minister.
Netanyahu promoted United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman from deputy health minister to health minister. To compensate Shas for not receiving a portfolio, MK Meshulam Nahari will become deputy welfare minister.
“The prime minister, who has become an escaped fugitive, is not appointing a man alleged to have committed bribery to a post that sets the price of food for all of us,” Blue and White said in a statement on January 6. “This is how the Netanyahu government has become a crime family, whose only goal is to ensure immunity for its leader.”