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Netanyahu Works Out Last Minute Coalition Deadlock

Compromise reached between Yuval Steinitz and Silvan Shalom, both of whom requested the Water and Energy Ministry.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/18/2013, 2:42 AM

Netanyahu and Steinitz
Netanyahu and Steinitz
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The new government is set to be sworn in on Monday, and almost all ministers have been appointed, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday night had to work out one more issue within his own party.

Ministers Silvan Shalom and Yuval Steinitz were fighting over the Water and Energy Ministry (formerly the Infrastructure Ministry), with reports on Sunday night indicating that both were alternately spending time in Netanyahu’s office, each of them trying to convince the Prime Minister to give the position to him.

Ultimately it was decided at around 2:00 a.m. that Steinitz would serve as Minister of International Relations (a position merging the Ministries of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs, held by Dan Meridor and Moshe Yaalon in the outgoing coalition). Shalom will serve as Energy and Water Minister, will maintain his role as Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee and Regional Cooperation and will also be a member of the Security-Political cabinet and a member of the ministerial committee in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu’s original plan was to have Shalom remain as Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee and also take on the role of Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs. Steinitz was to receive the Water and Energy Ministry after losing the Finance Ministry to Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.

Shalom, however, had reportedly asked to be given all three positions so he can have a greater influence in the government, after he was forced to give up the title of Vice Prime Minister, which he held in the last government. Under the agreements reached last week with Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, that title will be given to no one in the new government.

Shalom, a long-serving Likud MK who has held several senior ministerial positions over the years, ranked third in the Likud primaries last November, while Steinitz was placed in the 15th spot.

Earlier on Sunday Netanyahu was able to assign positions to the rest of his party’s members.

Likud members were upset last week that, during the coalition negotiations, Netanyahu conceded most of the top ministries to Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid and also agreed to significantly reduce the number of ministers in the coalition. The Likud members were also upset over the fact that the members of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party received most of the worthwhile positions that had been left, leaving the Likud MKs with slim ministerial pickings.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu met with his party’s MKs on Sunday and assigned the following positions:
Moshe Yaalon - Defense Minister
Gideon Sa’ar - Interior Minister
Gilad Erdan - Communications and Home Front Defense Minister
Yisrael Katz - Transportation Minister
Limor Livnat - Culture and Sport Minister
Ofir Akunis - Deputy Minister who coordinates between the Knesset and the cabinet (to be replaced by Tzachi Hanegbi after a year and a half. Hanegbi will chair the Knesset's House Committee until the change over)
Danny Danon - Deputy Defense Minister
Zeev Elkin - Deputy Foreign Minister

The role of Foreign Minister will be reserved for Lieberman until the end of his trial on corruption charges. Other members of Lieberman’s party in ministerial roles are: Yitzchak Aharonovitch (Internal Security Minister), Uzi Landau (Tourism), Yair Shamir (Agriculture) and Sofa Landver (Immigration Absorption Minister).