'Not thrilled to be appointed minister in lame-duck government'

PM invites Bezalel Smotrich, Rafi Peretz to meeting Monday, expected to appoint them to Transportation, Education ministries.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Rabbi Peretz (r) and Smotrich (l)
Rabbi Peretz (r) and Smotrich (l)
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited the leaders of the United Right party, MKs Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich, for a meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office Monday.

During the meeting, which is set to take place Monday afternoon, the prime minister is expected to discuss plans to appoint the two MKs as ministers in the current lame-duck government.

Peretz, who leads the Jewish Home faction of the United Right, is expected to receive the Education Ministry, which was held previously by his predecessor, Naftali Bennett, who bolted from the Jewish Home in December 2018 to form the New Right party.

Smotrich had originally hoped to be tapped for the Justice Ministry, replacing former minister Ayelet Shaked, who also left the Jewish Home last December to form the New Right.

But earlier this month, Netanyahu filled the vacancy at the Justice Ministry with Likud MK Amir Ohana, leaving the Transportation portfolio the most likely ministry for Smotrich to receive.

Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu and Smotrich will discuss the possibility of the latter being appointed Transportation Minister, given the disagreements between the two in the past.

Smotrich reportedly refused Netanyahu’s instruction that, if appointed Transportation Minister, he must automatically approve infrastructure work – including work to be carried out on the Sabbath. The United Right MK responded saying that he would not rubber-stamp work on the Sabbath, and would deal with each case individually, using his own judgment.

But Smotrich’s office pushed back against the report, saying that such decisions were under the jurisdiction of the Labor Ministry – not the Transportation Minister.

“It is unclear who is interested in pushing these baseless claims. The responsibility for work projects on the Sabbath is held by the Labor Minister, Haim Katz, not the Transportation Minister.”

“We’ll go to the Prime Minister today and finally hear his offer, and afterwards we’ll make a decision.”

Smotrich added that he was not “enthusiastic about be appointed to a caretaker government.”

“If Netanyahu wants, he can appoint [me], if not, we will invest all of our time and energy into building a united rightist camp and prepare for the elections.”