Shalom, Netanyahu, Yaalon
Shalom, Netanyahu, Yaalon Israel News Photo: file

Incoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to present this afternoon the largest government in Israel’s history – 30 ministers and 8 deputy ministers.

The Kadima party will lead the new Knesset opposition, which will also comprise the National Union, Meretz and the Arab parties. Kadima has already filed a complaint against the coalition-forming process, and has asked that the presentation of the government be delayed until next week. 

Complaint Rejected

Kadima faction head MK Yoel Hasson criticized, among other things, the “secret” coalition agreement reached with the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) faction.  Likud faction head MK Ze’ev Elkin said that no agreement with UTJ had yet been signed. The bottom line of the dispute was written by the Knesset’s legal counsel, who ruled that the government may be presented as planned.

Netanyahu Justifies Large Gov't

The government is to be Israel’s largest, even though Netanyahu himself, as Opposition leader in the past, called the relatively large Kadima government “ostentatious and wasteful.”  Netanyahu has explained that the cost to the Israeli taxpayer of not having a stable government would be many times higher than the costs of added ministers and ministries.

The ministerial table in the Knesset has already been enlarged to accommodate the burgeoned number of ministers.

The coalition was formed in a piecemeal manner. First to sign with the Likud was Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), headed by Avigdor Lieberman, followed by Shas and the Jewish Home.  The Labor Party was a surprise addition at nearly the last minute.  Ongoing negotiations with the National Union went nowhere, especially after Labor joined up, but talks with UTJ are expected to conclude successfully in the coming hours or days.

Finding Room for the Likud

Following the inclusion of Labor, Netanyahu then faced his hardest challenge: Finding enough ministerial portfolios to satisfy his fellow Likud colleagues. In the end, no fewer than 14 Likud members – more than half of the 27 party MKs – will receive portfolios, and another three are set to become Deputy Ministers. 

Shalom is Miffed

Though he faces much public criticism for forming Israel’s largest government in history, Netanyahu appears to have succeeded in making his Likud colleagues happy – except in the case of his main challenger, Silvan Shalom.  Having served in the past both as Foreign Minister and Finance Minister, Shalom demands the latter post, but Netanyahu decided to give it to MK Yuval Steinitz (see below). Shalom has been offered the Ministry of Regional Development, as well as the Vice Premiership, but he is rumored to be considering not joining the government altogether.  He and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon, before the government is presented in the Knesset.

Commentators assume, however, that in the end, Shalom will accept the posts he has been offered – and hope that he will be next in line for the Foreign Ministry in the event that Lieberman is forced to leave.  Lieberman has been under police investigation for 13 years, and is liable to be forced to resign from the Cabinet if the police recommend indicting him. 

Shalom has reportedly been promised the Foreign Affairs ministry if that occurs – prompting Yisrael Beiteinu to respond angrily that if Lieberman is forced to quit the government, his party will also quit the coalition.  Without Lieberman’s 15 Knesset seats, the coalition will not have a majority within the Knesset.

The New Government

The incoming government is to be sworn in at the Knesset at 5 PM on Tuesday.  It will apparently look as follows:

Likud:

Binyamin Netanyahu – Prime Minister

Yuval Steinitz - Finance

Gideon Saar - Education

Moshe Kachlon - Communications

Yisrael Katz - Transportation

Moshe Yaalon – Strategic Affairs and Vice Prime Minister

Gilad Erdan - Environment

Dan Meridor – Intelligence and Deputy Prime Minister

Limor Livnat – Culture and Sport

Yuli Edelstein - Information and Diaspora Affairs

Michael Eitan – without portfolio, responsible for gov’t services to the public

Benny Begin - without portfolio

Yossi Peled - without portfolio

Silvan Shalom – Vice PM and Regional Affairs Minister?

Yisrael Beiteinu:

Avigdor Lieberman – Foreign Affairs and Deputy PM

Yitzchak Aharonovitz – Public Security

Uzi Landau – Infrastructures

Sofa Landver – Immigration and Absorption

Stas Misazhnikov - Tourism

Labor:

Ehud Barak – Defense and Deputy PM

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer – Industry and Trade

Yitzchak Herzog  - Welfare

Shalom Simchon – Agriculture

Avishai Braverman - Minorities

Shas:

Eli Yishai – Interior and Deputy PM

Ariel Attias - Housing

Yaakov Margi – Religious Affairs

Meshulam Nahari – without portfolio



Jewish Home:

Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkovitz – Science



Independent appointment:

Yaakov Ne’eman - Justice

Deputy Ministers:  

Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) – Finance  

Gila Gamliel (Likud) – PM’s Office

Leah Ness (Likud) – Pensioners Affairs      

Ayoub Kara (Likud)      

Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beiteinu) - Foreign Ministry

Matan Vilnai (Labor) – Defense    

Orit Noked (Labor) – Industry and Trade

If and when a coalition agreement is signed with UTJ, Moshe Gafni is to serve as Deputy Health Minister, with Ministerial authorities.