Knesset Votes on Cabinet Expansion

YERUSHALAYIM -
Blue and White chairmen MK Benny Gantz (L) and his co-chairman MK Yair Lapid seen in the Knesset. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

 

The Knesset voted on Monday night by 65 to 54 to raise the limit on the size of the cabinet, allowing the prime minister to appoint more government ministers and deputies.

It was first big fight of the 21st Knesset, over the proposal to expand the cabinet from its current 21 members to a maximum of 26-28.

It was the first big fight of the 21st Knesset, over the proposal to expand the cabinet from its current 21 members to a maximum of 26-28. The fight isn’t over, though, as two more votes are required before the bill becomes law.d

Earlier in the day, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz lost no time in assailing the measure, which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urgently needs to appease the outsized portfolio demands of his prospective coalition partners.

“Can you believe we are going to talk today about increasing the number of ministers? This is simply another tool in the toolbox of political bribery. Its only aim is political gain. Anyone who accepts this is accepting a political bribe,” Gantz said at the opening of his party’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday.

Gantz talked of mass protests. “We’ll demonstrate this weekend – in the streets, in squares, in schools. We’ll fight in the media and legal arena, and in every possible arena to protect the rule of law,” he said.

“Netanyahu is trying to turn the Knesset into a haven for criminals, and the silence of the sheep of the Likud members will be remembered as a disgrace,” Gantz added.

Gantz’s No. 2, MK Yair Lapid, also called it “bribery”: “Each party, each minister comes in and says they want something — budgets, ministries etc. — and he says he will give it to them if they promise to protect him from prosecution. That is bribery; that is selling the state for your own benefit,” Lapid charged.

Defending the measure, Likud MK Ofir Akunis, the science minister in the outgoing government, noted that few Israeli governments have adhered to past limits on the number of ministers. “The only time that the [law limiting the cabinet size] was followed in full was in 1996, in the first government of Binyamin Netanyahu,” Akunis said.

MK Zeev Elkin of Likud accused opposition MKs of hypocrisy: “There were 23 ministers in a government Yesh Atid and Yair Lapid were a part of,” he said. “And there are MKs [in the opposition] who served as ministers in a government with 30 ministers.”

According to Finance Ministry estimates, each additional minister costs the state NIS 4.5 million to NIS 6.5 million ($1.25 million – $1.8 million) each year, and each additional deputy minister costs NIS 2 million ($560,000).

The Ministry estimate only covers the costs of establishing an office, various bureaucratic costs, and expenses. Operating budgets were not included.

 


Updated Monday, May 20, 2019 at 3:57 pm updated info

Updated Monday, May 20, 2019 at 4:41 pm updated info