'Deputy' Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana
'Deputy' Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana Hezki Baruch

Following the resignation of Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana at the end of last week and his return to the Knesset (thus ousting Yamina MK Yomtob Kalfon from his seat), Kahana has been appointed Deputy Minister in his old ministry, an appointment which can be made without holding a Knesset vote.

In a faction meeting this week, Prime Minister Bennett sought to ascertain whether his colleagues would vote in favor of having Kahana reappointed as minister if and when a vote is held, and when MK Idit Silman, still a member of the Yamina party but no longer a member of the coalition, refused to commit to doing so, she was ejected from the meeting.

As such, Prime Minister Bennett is now nominally Religious Affairs Minister, as the coalition struggles to rally the votes needed to have Kahana reappointed to his former position; without a majority in the Knesset, this will be no easy feat.

In practice, however, it is still Kahana at the helm, making the maneuver somewhat fictitious, as was pointed out on Tuesday by the Movement for Governance and Democracy. In a letter addressed to Bennett, the Movement noted that such a situation, in which a deputy minister is the de facto head of the ministry, was expressly invalidated by the Supreme Court, back in 2015.

The ruling then was in response to a petition filed by the Yesh Atid party which protested the fact that Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party was officially Deputy Health Minister, whereas in practice it was he who headed the ministry, while then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was only Health Minister in name.

The Supreme Court then ruled that the practice was invalid and that the Prime Minister could not head additional ministries.

In an ironic twist, the Movement for Governance and Democracy protested at the time that the Supreme Court "should not be the entity that determines norms for the government."