Daily Israel Report

Coalition Spat May Delay Liberman's Swearing-in

Avigdor Liberman was to be sworn in as Foreign Minister, but Yesh Atid and Jewish Home want to benefit, too.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/11/2013, 10:13 AM

Relieved: Lieberman
Relieved: Lieberman
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu faction, was be sworn in as Israel's foreign minister at the Knesset plenum Monday, but an argument within the governing Coalition may put the ceremony on hold.

Yesh Atid says that the coalition agreement stipulates that the government will only have 22 ministers, and that if Liberman is to become foreign minister, another minister from the Likud / Yisrael Beytenu joint faction must resign. Alternatively, Yesh Atid wants its MK Ofer Shelah to be appointed to head the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which Liberman headed until now.

Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) also notes that the appointment violates the coalition agreement, and wants to receive an unspecified Knesset position in return for agreeing to the nomination.

Likud-Beytenu has thus far rejected these demands by its partners. Deputy Foreign Minister, MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), noted that if Yesh Atid had truly objected to adding a minister as a matter of principle, it would not have offered the appointment of Shelah to head the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee as a way out of the controversy.

Liberman was foreign minister from 2009 to late 2012, when he resigned the position after the state filed criminal charges against him, for alleged breach of trust. The position was formally filled by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, so that Liberman could return to it, if and when he was acquitted.

During this time, Liberman served as the chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

He was acquitted of the charges against him on Wednesday and is therefore returning to the Foreign Ministry.

Technically, Netanyahu is resigning as Foreign Minister. This means that Deputy Minister Elkin is also formally relieved of his position as Deputy Foreign Minister. The government is expected to reinstate him this week, however, as a formality.

It is not known who will replace Liberman at the helm of the important Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Yisrael Hayom reports that the leading candidates are MK Shelah (Yesh Atid), Yariv Levin (Likud) and Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud).