Opposition MKs slammed an announcement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he was putting Tzachi Hanegbi in charge of the Communications Ministry, claiming that Hanegbi was just a stand-in for the prime minister and little more than a “puppet.” Hanegbi is to take the reins of the Ministry for at least three months, Netanyahu announced on Friday. The cabinet is expected to approve the appointment Sunday.
“The appointment of Hanegbi as Communications Minister for three months is an embarrassment to all Israelis, as it is clear that Hanegbi will represent Netanyahu’s interests, and the conflict of interests that brought Netanyahu to this action will remain,” said Meretz head Zehava Gal-on. “Netanyahu is trying have his cake and eat it too, and he understands that his involvement in the Communications Ministry further complicates his legal standing. It is clear that Netanyahu will continue to de facto control the Ministry, especially as the director general of the Ministry is his loyal appointee Shlomo Filber.”
PM Netanyahu was, until recently, Minister of Economics, and Regional Cooperation, and is still Foreign and Communications Minister. The prime minister had held 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 Netanyahu’s government.
PM Netanyahu 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 1,000,” as police have labeled it, in which Netanyahu 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, 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.
And Netanyahu’s “half solution,” in which Hanegbi will run the Ministry for three months – at which time, the prime minister said, he would make a further decision on its future – is not fooling anyone, said MK Yoel Chasson (Zionist Camp). “Instead of discussing something important like the two-state solution, Netanyahu is busy just trying to survive in office. He is trying to force his will on the Ministry and remain in charge of it. Netanyahu should completely give up the Ministry in a manner that allows for its independent functioning, and not play games with the High Court in order to fool the judges on his involvement.”