Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
Finance Minister Yuval SteinitzIsrael News photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Office on Sunday denied the publications according to which Netanyahu intends to appoint Minister Moshe Kahlon as Minister of Finance instead of Yuval Steinitz.

“Contrary to the reports which were made by interested political parties, the Prime Minister does not intend to replace the Minister of Finance,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“The Prime Minister fully trusts the Minister of Finance, who is doing an excellent job and all the positive economic data of the State of Israel are testimony to that.”

The statement was issued after a report in the Israeli Yediot Aharonot newspaper on Sunday said that a number of senior Likud officials had approached Netanyahu and asked him to replace Steinitz. The officials reportedly said that they thought “Steinitz is the source of quite a few problems in the economic-social sphere and that he causes public harm to both the Likud and the government.”

One of the issues Steinitz is being blamed for is the current housing crisis as hundreds of young people across Israel hit the streets and sleep in tents, in protest of the high cost of housing.

Netanyahu, however, told the Cabinet on Sunday the root cause of the problem is a government land monopoly.

The Prime Minister said he “identified” the housing crisis even before taking office two and half years ago and put the blame squarely on the government monopoly of land, which he said “holds more than 90 percent of the land in Israel and it is not releasing it.”

But despite the backing he gave Steinitz, unnamed officials in the Prime Minister’s Office claimed Sunday that the tension between the two men has reached its peak.

“If Netanyahu could replace him he would have already done so,” the officials were quoted in the media as saying, adding, “Netanyahu does not like the way Steinitz is handling himself, because he did not bring solutions to the problems that arise here every morning. He will not replace him, however, so as not to admit defeat.”