Herzog hands welfare portfolio to Likud’s Kahlon

New interim boss tells ministry managers he will be their political "voice."

Herzog Kahlon 311 (photo credit: Avi Hayun)
Herzog Kahlon 311
(photo credit: Avi Hayun)
MK Isaac Herzog of Labor officially handed over the Welfare and Social Services portfolio to Likud MK Moshe Kahlon on Monday The ceremony included the heads of various ministry departments, as well as two of Herzog’s political appointees – ministry director- general Nahum Itzkowitz and National Insurance Institute directorgeneral Esther Dominissini – who will continue with their work despite the change.
“Even before he was appointed to take over this job, I got a call from Kahlon expressing an interest in becoming minister of welfare and social services,” Herzog said as he handed the new minister a specially compiled guide on what he believes to be the most pressing social issues facing the nation.
“I know that even when Kahlon was minister of communications, he worked hard to promote the interests of the people,” Herzog said.
“The challenges for you here will not be easy,” he continued, quipping, “and from the opposition bench, we will not make your life easy – although that is not something personal, but rather political.”
Herzog announced his resignation as minister last week in the wake of party leader Ehud Barak’s decision to leave Labor and form the Independence faction.
Herzog said at a farewell press conference on Sunday that he would continue to advocate for social issues, even as he makes a bid for the Labor Party leadership and works to change what has become one of the smallest parties in the Knesset.
Despite the politics, Kahlon told those gathered on Monday that Herzog was leaving behind him a legacy in taking a ministry that no other politician wanted and bringing some of the most pressing social welfare issues to the forefront of the public consciousness.
“Society in general, and the weaker or needier elements in society, owes you a lot,” Kahlon said. “This office is not in high demand by politicians, but you came in and took on many of the challenges.”
Kahlon was appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu five days ago to head the ministry, although at the moment the appointment is only for an interim period of three months.
Regarding whether Kahlon planned to remain in the position long-term, a spokesman for the new minister told The Jerusalem Post, “It is not about what he [the minister] wants; he has been given a mission by the prime minister, and that is what he is doing.”
In the meantime, Kahlon told Welfare and Social Services Ministry professionals that he intended to become their “voice in the government, the Knesset and Knesset committees.
“Any issue that needs to be dealt with, please do not hesitate to speak to me about it,” said Kahlon, adding that he planned to continue the changes that Herzog had set in motion over the past four years.
“I truly believe in a person’s dignity,” he said.
“There are many issues [in society] that bother me, and I will do what I can to see to it that people do not suffer.”
Itzkowitz, who started as director-general when Herzog took over the ministry in 2007, told the Post he was delighted to be staying in place for now and that he was hopeful Kahlon would continue after the three-month period was over.
“The ministry needs to have a permanent minister.
It is very important,” he said.
Among the issues that Herzog has urged Kahlon to focus on in the coming months is the battle with the Treasury to improve salaries, resources and manpower for those at the forefront of social welfare issues – the social workers.
The guide also outlines the need to improve the plight of thousands of Holocaust survivors who live in poverty, and the flow of information among authorities to the reduce the dangers faced by children at risk.
Nonprofit organizations working in the field of social welfare, as well as several members of staff, expressed to the Post in recent days their disappointment at seeing Herzog leave the ministry, but most said they were satisfied with Kahlon being appointed the new minister as long as he was able to stay for the long term.
Following Kahlon’s appointment, Itzhik Perry, head of the Social Workers Union said, “We welcome the prime minister’s decision to appoint a full-time minister to this post. Moshe Kahlon will be a courageous minister who has already proven his ability to bring about reforms in the realm of social welfare.”
Ran Melamed, deputy director of social policy and communication for nonprofit organization Yedid, also said Kahlon was a good choice, but did not understand why the appointment was only temporary.
“He could be the perfect minister, but the question is, why it is only for a short period, and what will happen three months from now?” he said.