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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks at his watch before delivering a statement at the Knesset, Israels parliament, in Jerusalem December 19, 2018.(Photo by: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Netanyahu expected to appoint Katz or Steinitz as foreign minister on Sunday
By LAHAV HARKOV
02/16/2019
Netanyahu has held foreign portfolio since the 2015 election, but the State told the High Court on Thursday that he will relinquish it on Sunday.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz are the rumored front-runners for the position of foreign minister, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to appoint at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu has held the Foreign portfolio since the 2015 election, but the state told the High Court on Thursday that he will relinquish it on Sunday. He had previously said he would appoint a foreign minister at the end of January.

The change comes after the Movement for Quality Government petitioned the court against the number of portfolios the prime minister holds; he has also been defense minister since November, and is health minister, though there is an active Deputy Health Minister, Ya’acov Litzman.

Katz and Steinitz were thought to be Netanyahu’s preferred candidates in November, but he did not appoint either before calling an election for April 9. They were still considered the leading candidates as of Saturday night.

Netanyahu considers Steinitz a close ally and would be a safe choice for the post, since he is not in the running to be the next leader of the Likud and does not have a broad power base in the party. Steinitz, who is 17th on the Likud list for the next Knesset, wouldn’t expect to maintain such a senior post, and in fact, has been demoted from a very senior position – finance minister – in the past.

If Netanyahu appoints Katz as foreign minister, political pressures could obligate him to keep the minister in the same position if he leads the next coalition.

However, appointing Katz could have political advantages for Netanyahu, including creating an alliance with the minister, who is also chairman of the Likud’s secretariat.

Katz came in second place in the Likud’s primary nearly two weeks ago, making him third on the party’s list, but Netanyahu is expected to disregard placement on the list when appointing ministers, should he form the next government.
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