Government approves new accountant-general

Approval of Yali Rothenberg after Rony Hizkiyahu’s departure marks a win for Finance Minister Israel Katz.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yali Rothernberg, 46, will serve as the next Finance Ministry Accountant-General after the resignation of Rony Hizkiyahu, the government decided on Sunday. Rothernberg currently serves as the vice head of Bezeq’s Financial Department and is expected to finish his work there in order to assume the new role in the next few days.  
Finance Minister Israel Katz called him “a first-class professional with a creative way of thinking and deep knowledge of the Finance Ministry and the Israeli economy,” wishing him success in his new role.
The position is crucial because without a budget, nobody is tasked with overseeing what the government can spend. Israel currently does not have a budget and is operating based on the one approved in 2018 – with some expenses, such as those for COVID-19, being paid for by using a “black box.” This is an emergency device meant to be used temporarily, not to replace a budget.  
Hizkiyahu was the first high-ranking official to resign from the ministry. Two others followed his lead: former Budget Department head Shaul Meridor and former Finance Ministry director-general Keren Terner-Eyal.
Unlike Meridor, who wrote a public letter slamming Katz for his alleged bad treatment of the ministry’s officials, Terner-Eyal and Hizkiyahu kept their opinions out of the media. Katz even thanked Hizkiyahu  last week for his efforts to ensure that Israel was not degraded by the S&P credit rating agency, which kept the country at a AA- rating.
Katz had been the object of much criticism in recent weeks for his alleged belittling of people in his own office who he suspects leak embarrassing details to the media, like his habit of comparing himself to King Herod.    
Rothernberg is entering the ministry at a time when the nation is holding its breath to see if it will get a budget this year at the hands of the uneasy unity government between Likud and Blue and White. If not, the country will be plunged into elections.  
Unlike Hizkiyahu, a 69-year-old man who enjoyed a good reputation as “the adult in the room,” Rothernberg is not expected to object to a powerful minister who has fought long and hard to appoint him to the position.
The last person to enter public office after filling a powerful position in Bezeq was former Labor leader Avi Gabay, whose skills did not do the party any favors.  
Katz seems to be on a roll. Last Thursday, he was able to report that he was able to wrestle away from Labor Minister Itzik Shmuli the responsibility of offering training for rehiring for unemployed Israelis, of whom there are roughly one million.
The new body will operate for two and a half years and plans to facilitate 100,000 job-seekers returning to work “in the near future,” the ministry said upon its approval from the government on Sunday.
Katz was also able to appoint Kobi Blitshtien, his former vice director-general when he was transportation minister, to the new position in the Finance Ministry of infrastructure head – a repeat of what he did with Terner-Eyal, who also worked with him in his former ministry.
The appointment isn’t the end of it – Blitshtien requested to appoint two deputies to serve under him, The Marker reported on Sunday.
Will Katz be able to deliver a budget? Or will he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue to offer voters safety nets, beating hearts and other relief plans ahead of a looming election?  
The answer might be in the hands of the man who served, briefly, as the de facto prime minister when Netanyahu was under sedation last Friday due to a medical checkup – Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.