Who will be Israel's next foreign minister? - analysis

Those who do fill that role often find it difficult to break out of his shadow to make their own independent mark.

 CLOCKWISE: Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud MK Israel Katz, Likud MK Amir Ohana and former US ambassador Ron Dermer.  (photo credit: REUTERS, SRAYA DIAMANT/FLASH90, YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90, YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
CLOCKWISE: Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud MK Israel Katz, Likud MK Amir Ohana and former US ambassador Ron Dermer.
(photo credit: REUTERS, SRAYA DIAMANT/FLASH90, YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90, YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

Likud parliamentarians Amir Ohana and Israel Katz are the likely leading candidates to be appointed Wednesday as foreign minister, with former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer the next likely possibility.

It’s a portfolio prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has, during his past tenures in office, preferred to keep to himself.

Those who do fill that role often find it difficult to break out of his shadow to make their own independent mark.

Israel Katz's qualifications 

Foreign Minister Israel Katz speaks at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Foreign Minister Israel Katz speaks at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Katz, 67, already served as foreign minister from 2019 to 2020 and has held four other ministerial roles, including as head of the Finance, Intelligence, Transportation, and Agriculture and Rural Development ministries.

He has stood on the diplomatic stage by addressing the UN General Assembly in 2019. He also put forward a number of regional plans including one called “Tracks for Regional Peace,” which he presented at a conference in Oman in 2018. It called for a regional rail line that would link Haifa with Jordan and Gulf states.

In addition, Katz proposed the construction of an artificial island off the coast of Gaza that could act as a port for goods coming in and out of the Strip.

However, his blunt statements have also created diplomatic tensions, including his statements charging Poles with antisemitism and accusing Belgians of focusing more on chocolate than terrorism.

Both Katz and Ohana are supporters of the application of sovereignty over settlements and are opponents of Palestinian statehood. That stance, like many other policies this government will hold, would put it at odds with its Western allies.

Amir Ohana's experience in government

Ohana, 46, has served as both justice and public security minister. He is the only openly gay Likud parliamentarian, let alone minister.

A strong advocate for gay rights, he is likely to be in perpetual conflict with the Likud’s ultra-right-wing partners.

The government has yet to be sworn in. Comments its members have made, and some projected policies, have raised concern domestically and internationally that gay rights in Israel will be harmed.

Appointing Ohana to the Foreign Ministry would make him one of the leading faces of Israeli diplomacy to the world. It would likely help quell some of the anticipated diplomatic storms over Israeli human rights issues. He would also be the first gay foreign minister in Israel’s history.

Ohana and Katz have been largely silent since the elections, with Ohana, a guitar player, posting more about music than the political debates that have captured the headlines.

Ron Dermer enters the picture 

American-born Dermer, 51, is one of Netanyahu’s close political confidants. He served as a special adviser to Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Office prior to his appointment as ambassador to the US in 2013, a post he held until January 2021.

Dermer is a well-known face in Washington among both Democrats and Republicans. His deep connection to Netanyahu, his native facility with English and his inborn American cultural sensibilities would allow him to successfully navigate Israel’s relationship with its strongest ally.

He is also well poised to hit the ground running on issues relating to the growing tension between Israel and Iran.

Still, the foreign minister position is one of the most senior and desired portfolios.

According to Channel 11, Katz threatened to quit the government if he was not made foreign minister.