Report: PM Netanyahu Ready to Give Up Communications Portfolio

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Amit Shabi/Pool)

After appointing ministers in recent months to a number of ministerial positions he had held back, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to give up the Communications portfolio, Yediot Acharonot reported Tuesday. The most likely candidate for the post is current Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev, whose replacement in that position has still not been decided.

PM Netanyahu was, until recently, minister of economics and regional cooperation, and is still foreign and communications minister. The prime minister had held back those positions in name only, placing the deputy ministers in charge of policy and day-to-day affairs, in anticipation of other parties joining the government. The Foreign Ministry, for example, is thought to be earmarked for Zionist Camp, if it chooses to join PM Netanyahu’s government.

The prime minister had been holding onto the Communications portfolio for the same reason, but after discussions with legal experts in recent days, has come to realize that he would likely be ordered by the High Court to give up that post. The reason has to do with the investigations against him, specifically “Case number 1000,” as police have labeled it, in which the prime minister was accused of accepting extravagant gifts from millionaire Arnon Milchin, who has an ownership interest in Channel Ten. As this could constitute a conflict of interest, PM Netanyahu has decided to step down as communications minister, the report said. Several petitions demanding that he appoint a full-time minister to the post have already been filed.

While the prime minister has not spoken publicly about his replacement at Communications, Social Justice Minister Gila Gamliel told the Knesset channel in an interview last week that Regev was “the best person for the communications post.” Gamliel in the past has passed on “messages” from PM Netanyahu to the media, government sources said, and it’s likely that she was doing so this time as well.