Netanyahu Presents Ministerial Lineup Amid Raucus Opposition

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presented his list of ministers in the Knesset on Thursday night in a raucus plenum session that capped an exhausting and embarrassing period of coalition negotiations.

The swearing-in of the government was delayed by two hours, as the prime minister sought to find a solution for senior Likud members who had not been satisfied with the ministerial positions offered to them.

It was two hours on top of the longest coalition-building period on record, which began almost immediately after the March 17 elections, and culminated in a narrow, barely- manageable 61 member coalition.

Prior to reading off the names of his appointees, Netanyahu acknowledged that the process had been difficult and declared that the system must be changed. He noted that this is the 34th government in the history of the state of Israel, which averages a change of leadership about every two years, and almost ceaseless electioneering and politicking.

From the outset, the prime minister was heckled by opposition MKs, and members of the Arab United List were ejected from the plenum for refusing to come to order. Netanyahu’s  election day remarks urging his supporters to get out the vote lest the large numbers of Arab voters being bused to the polls defeat the right wing were angrily recalled.

Netanyahu used the opportunity to invite Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog to join a unity government. But Herzog, when his turn came to speak, flung the invitation back in his face, reiterating that he had no intention of doing so. Herzog said that Netanyahu had not established a government but “a circus,” and that it was “without direction, without agenda, without hope.”

Likud MKs Silvan Shalom and Gilad Erdan were the last holdouts. Netanyahu announced that Shalom had accepted appointment to be Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

He said that he hoped Erdan, considered the No. 2 in the Likud party, would soon be part of the government.

Erdan had asked for the Education Ministry, but after that went to Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, he sought the Foreign Ministry — even offering to vacate the position should Netanyahu need it in order to add more partners to his coalition, according to Ynet.

But Netanyahu rejected that proposal and in the end the two could not agree on a role for him in the government.

On Thursday afternoon, it was announced that Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz would continue in their posts.

Yuval Steinitz was appointed Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, head of the Committee of Nuclear Energy, and a member of the security cabinet.

MK Ayoub Kara, who had threatened that if he were not given a ministry to leave the government and take the Druze community with him, was placated with deputy minister with ministerial authority, in charge of regional cooperation and development of the Druze and Circassian communities.

MK Tzipi Hotovely, a popular young Likud MK, will be Deputy Foreign Minister, while Netanyahu himself holds the ministership.

However, following Netanyahu’s readout of ministers, MK Tzahi Hanegbi said that he had not agreed to the positions Netanyahu assigned him: Coalition Chairman and  Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Hanegbi, who has held senior posts before, had reportedly been interested in heading the Foreign Ministry.

Other senior posts had already been determined in negotiations with Likud’s coalition partners. Among them: Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon, Finance; Kulanu MK Yoav Galant, Housing; Shas leader Aryeh Deri, Economy; Bennet, Education; Jewish Home’s Uri Ariel, Agriculture; Ayelet Shaked, Justice; United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, Deputy Health Minister.