PM awards last few portfolios, resolving feuds

Netanyahu reaches compromise, handing former VP Shalom Energy Ministry, while Steinitz to get new Int'l Relations portfolio.

Silvan Shalom and Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Silvan Shalom and Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu late on Sunday night appointed Yuval Steinitz as Minister of International Relations and Silvan Shalom as Energy and Water Minister, resolving feuding over portfolios in a series of late-night meetings with Likud ministers.
Shalom is to also maintain his role as Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee and Regional Cooperation. Shalom will also be a member of the ministerial committee in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Shalom will be a member of the Security cabinet as well. He had insisted on receiving a senior portfolio, having been Finance and Foreign Minister in the past and Deputy Prime Minister in the last government, and said he would rather be a regular MK than a minister with a portfolio that is not influential.
The new government will be sworn in at the Knesset Monday evening.
In negotiations earlier on Sunday, the prime minister appointed Moshe Ya'alon Defense Minister.
"In such a decisive time for Israel's security, when the area around us is stormy, it is important that an experienced man like Moshe Ya'alon have this job," Netanyahu said of the Defense Ministry. "In the name of all the citizens of Israel, I wish him luck."
Ya'alon, 62, was IDF chief of staff from 2002-2005, and served in the military for 37 years.
"I will bring the best of my experience and values to this job, and I am determined to lead the IDF and defense branches to new heights, with responsibility and good judgment, in order to face the challenges of the future," he said, thanking the prime minister for appointing him.
Ya'alon emphasized the Iranian nuclear threat as the central challenge Israel is facing, adding also upheaval in the Arab world, threats in the north and from Gaza, issues with the Palestinians, and equality in the burden of national service as matters with which he will have to deal in the coming years.
In addition, Ya'alon said "the IDF is not a desert island," and will have to be part of the effort to stabilize the economy. In other words, the defense budget will face cuts.
Ya'alon thanked his predecessor in the job, Ehud Barak and said he feels privileged to work with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and the soldiers and commanders under him.
Likud's Danny Danon will serve as Deputy Defense Minister.
Danon first turned down the offer from Netanyahu, because he expected to be made a minister after being voted fifth on the Likud list in the party primary, but accepted it soon after, following a meeting with Ya'alon.
"I see this job as one with great importance and a real ability to contribute to the country, which is why I agreed to the offer," Danon stated. "We stand before many challenges, and I commit to fill the job with dedication and to protect the values of the national camp."
The soon-to-be deputy minister added that he is sure that, in light of his high ranking on the party list, he will become a minister if a spot in the government opens up.
Danon was not the only Likud MK to give Netanyahu a hard time, indicating growing frustration within the party’s ranks.
Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, who was replaced by Yuli Edelstein when Netanyahu did not speak up in support of Rivlin, refused to meet with the prime minister, saying “I am not asking him for anything.” This is the second time Rivlin turned down a meeting with Netanyahu in the past week.
Gideon Sa'ar will become Interior Minister, as expected. He said on his way out of his meeting with Netanyahu that he plans to bring reforms to the ministry, as he did as Education Minister.
Gilad Erdan received the Home Front Security and Communications portfolios, with a few extra responsibilities.
Erdan, who was considered a candidate to replace Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, will be responsible for the strategic relationship with the US. The position essentially means he is in charge of strategic dialogs with the US twice a year. In addition, he will be a member of the security cabinet, along with Netanyahu, Ya'alon, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni.
The Communications Ministry will be expanded to include the Israel Broadcast Agency and the Government Publications Bureau.
Tzachi Hanegbi will be Knesset House Committee chairman for a year and a half, while Ofir Akunis will serve as a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, who is responsible for connecting the government and the Knesset. Akunis' position would consist mostly of giving speeches in the Knesset representing the government's position, a job previously held by ministers in addition to their portfolio.
After a year and a half, Akunis and Hanegbi will trade places.
Netanyahu's office said that the prime minister values Hanegbi's experience in the diplomatic and security arenas, and his willingness to take a central role in the Knesset in order to help the new coalition start off successfully.
The prime minister also asked Haim Katz to continue in his position as chairman of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and Miri Regev to be chairwoman of the Interior Committee. Yariv Levin will be coalition chairman, and Yisrael Beytenu’s David Rotem will remain Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman.
The Bayit Yehudi Central Committee unanimously approved the party’s coalition agreements and MKs’ appointments to positions on Sunday evening.
As planned, Bennett will be Economy and Trade Minister, Uri Ariel will be Housing and Construction Minister, Uri Orbach received the Pensioners’ Affairs portfolio, and Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan will be Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs.
Nissan Slomiansky, who was an MK for over 10 years, will be chairman of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee, and Avi Wortzman, former deputy mayor of Beersheba, will be Deputy Education Minister. Ayelet Shaked will be faction chairwoman.
In Yesh Atid, Aliza Lavie was appointed chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Ofer Shelach will be faction chairman.
Hatnua’s Amram Mitzna will be Knesset Education Committee chairman.