Netanyahu's cabinet ministers to be sworn in Thursday

Likud ministers battle over seats; Erdan threatens to stay out

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 3 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 3
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fourth government is set to be sworn in Thursday night at the Knesset, ending the longest government formation period in the country’s history.
The new cabinet will have to receive Knesset approval, following speeches by Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Assuming the vote passes, the ministers will then go to the President’s Residence to take the traditional photograph of the government.
But last-minute complications inside Netanyahu’s Likud Party could derail the ceremony. Netanyahu started meeting Likud MKs one by one Wednesday evening, in order of their placement on the party list, and informing them what posts they would receive in the new government.
His No. 2 in the Likud, outgoing Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, informed the prime minister that he would not enter the cabinet if he did not receive the Foreign Ministry or both the Interior and Public Security portfolios.
Netanyahu told Erdan that he intends to keep the Foreign Ministry for himself in hopes that Zionist Union leader Herzog might join the cabinet later on. The two-hour meeting ended without a decision.
If Netanyahu does not give in to Erdan, the ministry is expected to go to MK Tzachi Hanegbi as either a minister-without-portfolio in the ministry or as deputy foreign minister, a post he held in the outgoing government. Hanegbi is the only senior Likud MK other than Netanyahu who is in favor of a Palestinian state.
Speculation that former ambassador to the United States Michael Oren would become deputy foreign minister ended Wednesday when sources in his Kulanu Party revealed that the one deputy minister post the party had received would go to MK Eli Cohen in the Construction Ministry.
Other Likud politicians whose posts were known Wednesday night include Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Transportation Minister Israel Katz, who will keep their current posts; MK Haim Katz, who will become welfare and social services minister; and MK Bennie Begin, who will be strategic affairs minister. Israel Katz will also be minister of intelligence services.
The government’s formation was made possible by the passage of a bill enabling the appointment of more than 18 ministers. The bill passed Wednesday afternoon by a 61-59 margin after three days of opposition filibustering.
Following the bill’s passage, Herzog called the government’s formation a Pyrrhic victory. Zionist Union officials vowed to keep up parliamentary pressure on Netanyahu until his government falls.
“You wanted seats?” Zionist Union faction head Eitan Cabel told Likud MKs. “You got them. Now we won’t let you leave them. The long hours you just sat in the plenum are just a preview for what is to come.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid predicted that Netanyahu would end up appointing many more than the 20 ministers who will be sworn in Thursday night. He said that whenever Netanyahu faced a political problem, he would solve it by appointing more ministers.
“The new ministers can tell themselves that they have unnecessary jobs in unnecessary offices, and now they can finally sit and do nothing and appoint their associates to political patronage positions,” Lapid said. “They’ll do nothing for the public except spend its money, lots of money.”
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said that “the problem with the government is not that it is right-or left-wing, capitalist or socialist.” Rather, he said, it was a government “without taste, smell, a future, hopes or dreams.”
There was an uproar in the plenum when a woman appeared to vote in place of Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova in a roll-call vote. Knesset officials were investigating the matter, because voting in place of an MK is against the law.