Erdan undecided on UN post, but MKs eyeing his job

Once the least sought-after ministry in the cabinet, Environmental Protection Ministry has grown in stature, had budget doubled.

Erdan 311 (photo credit: Israel Sellem)
Erdan 311
(photo credit: Israel Sellem)
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has not yet decided whether to accept an offer from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to become ambassador to the United Nations.
But a battle is already under way to succeed him in the Environmental Protection Ministry – just in case the job opens up. The ministry, which was once the least sought-after in the cabinet, has grown in stature under Erdan, who succeeded in getting its budget doubled.
Erdan said on Wednesday that he would make a decision within two weeks about whether to accept the prestigious job in New York, which was once held by Netanyahu himself.
Two female deputy ministers from the Likud are actively seeking the post: Deputy Pensioners Affairs Minister Leah Ness and Gila Gamliel, whose responsibilities in the Prime Minister’s Office include issues related to women, students and young people.
Sources close to Ness point out that she is a former chairwoman of the Knesset’s short-lived Environmental Affairs Committee, which is now part of the Internal Affairs Committee.
During her time in the post, she initiated key legislation regulating clean air and other environmental issues.
Should Gamliel be given the job, her current responsibilities for students and young people could be given to MK Ophir Akunis, who is close to Netanyahu and is among the youngest MKs at 37.
Akunis, who recently lost the chairmanship of the Knesset Economics Committee, could also be given responsibility over the Israel Broadcasting Authority in place of Netanyahu’s director-general Eyal Gabai, who has been overloaded with tasks.
But Akunis would not mind getting promoted straight to a cabinet post, as would other freshman MKs.
Under Ariel Sharon, two young freshmen MKs were promoted quickly to minister: Tzipi Livni and Dan Naveh.
There are also two ministers without portfolio in Likud who could be considered for the post should it become vacant: Michael Eitan and Yossi Peled.
The UN ambassador’s post is currently occupied by Meron Reuben, a career diplomat, who was named interim ambassador when Gabriela Shalev left the job.
Reuben was recently given an indication that he would remain in the UN post, because another diplomat was appointed ambassador to Colombia, the job he held when he was given the UN post, and which he had continued to hold from New York.