Sources: If Liberman convicted, Steinitz to be FM

Exclusive: Likud sources tell 'Post' PM assured Steinitz his title of int'l affairs minister could be stepping stone to Foreign Ministry.

Yuval Steinitz 370 (photo credit: Hadas Parush)
Yuval Steinitz 370
(photo credit: Hadas Parush)
The title of international affairs minister that the Likud’s Yuval Steinitz received could be a stepping stone to the Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reassured Steinitz this week, Likud sources revealed exclusively to The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
The sources said that at a marathon meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday, in which Steinitz let Silvan Shalom have the Energy and Water Ministry, Steinitz raised the issue of what would happen if Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman is convicted.
Currently, Netanyahu is holding the Foreign Affairs portfolio for Liberman, hoping he will be cleared of corruption charges. A verdict in the Liberman case is expected as early as July.
If Liberman is convicted, multiple Likud ministers will seek the Foreign Ministry, including Steinitz, Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, and Shalom, who held the post under former prime minister Ariel Sharon. But Likud sources said Netanyahu’s mind was made up, and he made clear to Steinitz that the job would be his.
Liberman did not permit Netanyahu to appoint another minister in the Foreign Ministry during his absence and insisted that MK Ze’ev Elkin be appointed deputy foreign minister, even though he does not speak English.
While Netanyahu holds the Foreign Affairs portfolio, Steinitz will meet most visiting dignitaries, including the foreign minister of Norway.
“Yuval is basically acting foreign minister, so receiving the post would be a natural shift,” a source close to him said. “He is respected around the world, and he has the skills and the English for the job.”
Steinitz will also be in charge of the strategic dialogue with the United States, which was initially going to be given to Homefront Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Netanyahu asked Erdan to let Steinitz have that role, after Steinitz agreed to give Shalom the Energy and Water Ministry.
Shalom denied reports that he met with Netanyahu for hours on Sunday in an effort to extort a better portfolio for himself. He said he just spoke to the prime minister over lunch and then worked with his staff at a side room in Netanyahu’s office until the prime minister’s meeting with Steinitz ended several hours later.
A former director-general of the Israel Electric Corporation, Shalom said he was happy to be in charge of the country’s energy and water and to have influence on other key issues.
A poll sponsored by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) and Tel Aviv University found that a majority of Jewish Israelis (56%) believe that Yair Lapid is not suited to be finance minister, while 33% think he is. Even among Yesh Atid voters, 50% believe he is not suited while 42% think he is.
Jewish Israelis are closely divided on Tzipi Livni’s suitability to coordinate negotiations with the Palestinians, with 46% seeing her as suitable and 50% seeing her as not. Nearly all Hatnua voters (95%) see her as suitable for this role.
More than two-thirds (69%) of Jewish Israelis supported a coalition with Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, while the ultra-Orthodox parties remain outside; a minority (28%) opposed this.
This survey, conducted from March 11-14, 2012, included 600 respondents who constitute a representative sample of the adult population of Israel. The measurement error for a sample of this size is 4.5%.