Netanyahu promised four deputy ministers in his office, but law only allows two

Netanyahu held his government's first full work meeting on Tuesday morning and approved Avi Maoz's appointment as deputy minister.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting on January 3, 2023 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting on January 3, 2023
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

The coalition agreements include three different promises to MKs to serve as deputies ministers in the Prime Minister's Office and Netanyahu also reportedly offered a fourth deputy position to Likud MK May Golan – but the law only enables the prime minister to hold two deputies in his office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not fulfill his promises during the coalition negotiations to appoint Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen and Likud MK May Golan as deputies in the Prime Minister's Office, since Netanyahu also promised the same to Noam MK Avi Maoz and United Torah Judaism MK Uri Makleb – but the law only enables the prime minister to hold two deputies in his office.

The promises to appoint Maoz, Makleb, and Cohen as deputy ministers were all written in the signed agreements. On the eve of the government's swearing-in session last week, Netanyahu also promised Golan the same, and the Likud put out a statement to that effect and a photo of Netanyahu and Golan.

However, the law clearly states that the prime minister is only allowed to have two deputies. All other ministers can only have one deputy. Netanyahu's government approved Maoz's and Makleb's appointments in its first full work meeting on Tuesday morning, meaning that Cohen and Golan will be left out.

Cohen said that he was offered instead to serve as a deputy in the Economy Ministry until the law is changed to enable him to serve in the PMO, but he turned down the offer, opting instead to serve as a regular member of Knesset. Golan, also, will not receive the appointment at the moment.

Government appoints six deputy ministers

Maoz, according to the agreements, will receive control of the Education Ministry's external pedagogical programs; form a new "Jewish Identity Authority" with a NIS 100 million budget; lead the Nativ organization, which assists Jews in former USSR countries; and take over two other branches in the Prime Minister's Office.

Makleb, according to the coalition agreements, will take control over two branches that will be moved from the Social Equality Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office. The first deals with social and economic development in the haredi public, and the second is an authority that acts on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

The government approved six deputy ministers in all. In addition to Maoz and Makleb in the PMO, Makleb was also appointed deputy Transportation Minister; Shas MK Moshe Arbel was appointed Minister in the Interior Ministry and deputy Health Minister; Shas MK Moshe Aboutboul was appointed deputy Agriculture and Rural Development Minister; UTJ MK Yaakov Tessler was appointed deputy Culture and Sports Minister; and Religious Zionist Party MK Michal Woldiger was appointed deputy Finance Minister.

 MK's Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev speaks during a meeting of the United Torah Judaism party at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on November 21, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK's Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev speaks during a meeting of the United Torah Judaism party at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on November 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The appointments are valid pending an announcement to the Knesset plenum on Tuesday afternoon.

The government will now number 32 ministers and six deputy ministers.

The government in its meeting also approved the makeup of the government's National Security Cabinet and Shin Bet Affairs Cabinet.

A-G absent for the second cabinet meeting in a row

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara was reportedly not present at the meeting. Baharav Miara was not invited to a ceremonial government meeting after it was sworn in on Thursday. This drew criticism, and the Likud put out a statement clarifying that Thursday's meeting was ceremonial.

However, it was not clear why the attorney general did not attend Tuesday's meeting, which was a full work meeting.

The issue is sensitive since Baharav-Miara announced later on Tuesday that she would not represent Netanyahu in the High Court against Health and Interior Minister MK Aryeh Deri appointment as minister.

Deri was sentenced to a one-year suspended jail sentence in January for tax offenses. His compatibility for serving as a minister was supposed to be decided by Central Election Committee Chairman High Court Justice Yizhak Amit, but the coalition changed the law in December so that only actual, and not suspended, jail sentences, served as a possible barrier to serve as a minister.