Lieberman may let faction decide on tourism minister
Israel Beiteinu given Tourism portfolio after Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog of Labor trades it in for Social Affairs Ministry.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
The Israel Beiteinu faction will make a "collective decision" on who will be Israel's next tourism minister when the faction convenes on Sunday at the Knesset, Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman said on Saturday night.
Israel Beiteinu was given the Tourism portfolio in Thursday's cabinet reshuffle after Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog of Labor agreed to trade in the portfolio for the Social Affairs Ministry. Israel Beiteinu will also receive the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee.
Lieberman had already decided that the chairmanship of the finance committee would go to MK Stas Meseznecov. But the fate of the Tourism portfolio remained undecided on Saturday night.
People who spoke to Lieberman on Saturday night said he might decide to have the faction vote on who will be the minister. Such a vote would make it likely that MK Yisrael Hasson would receive the portfolio instead of MK Estherina Tartman.
Tartman angered members of her faction last month when she made statements about incoming Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle that were considered racist. Lieberman also wants to avoid replacing Tartman as faction chairman, a post that would be difficult to fill due to the limited Hebrew of many Israel Beiteinu MKs.
Hasson, who is number two on the Israel Beiteinu list, has called on Lieberman to decide who will be the minister based on the order of the list. He has issued veiled threats about making life difficult for Lieberman if he is not given the portfolio.
Appointing Hasson would also allow Lieberman to continue his efforts to recraft his image as a moderate, because Hasson is considered centrist while Tartman's views are much further to the Right.
Sources close to Lieberman revealed over the weekend that had Israel Beiteinu been given the Science portfolio instead of Tourism, his candidate for the post would have been neither Hasson, nor Tartman, but Nobel Prize-winning mathematician Robert Yisrael Aumann or another professional appointment.
Lieberman believes it is important to appoint more professionals to the cabinet, but sources close to him said the Tourism portfolio did not enable him to act on that philosophy.
Majadle, Herzog and the Israel Beiteinu minister's appointments will be brought to the cabinet for approval on March 4 and the Knesset the following day.
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