New Gov’t Starts Process of Taking Power

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett talks to Defense Minister Benny Gantz as the ministers gather for a group photo at the President’s Residence on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s new government met President Reuven Rivlin for a photo on Monday as it begins the process of taking power following 12 years of rule by Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud.

While the traditional photo at the President’s Residence signifies a normal transfer of power, Netanyahu said he would not take part in a traditional handover toast with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

In the meantime, in an attempt to ensure a smooth transition, Bennett will retain Brig. Gen. Avi Blot in his role as military secretary. National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat will also stay in office until a successor is appointed. Both top officials were appointed by Netanyahu.

Following the Cabinet meeting, Bennett met with Blot and Ben-Shabbat for his first security briefing as premier.

On Monday, a number of ministries will hold handover ceremonies between the outgoing ministers and their incoming successors.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz remains defense minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman was sworn in Sunday as finance minister. New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar was appointed justice minister, while Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked was named interior minister and Yamina’s Matan Kahana took on the role of religious affairs minister. Labor’s Merav Michaeli received the transportation portfolio, and her fellow party member Omer Bar-Lev became the new public security minister. Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz was appointed health minister.

Also late Sunday, MK Idit Silman of Yamina was chosen to head the powerful Knesset Arrangements Committee to replace MK Karine Elharrar (Yesh Atid), who was appointed energy minister. Silman is also expected to become the coalition chairwoman.

A series of ministers resigned their positions in the Knesset under the Norwegian law, allowing new MKs from their party to take their place.

The Norwegian law allows any MK who is appointed to a Cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.

So far, 13 ministers have reportedly resigned their Knesset seats or say they intend to: Avigdor Liberman, Oded Forer and Hamad Amar of Yisrael Beytenu; Pnina Tamano, Chili Tropper and Orit Farkash-Hacohen of Blue and White, Orna Barbivai and Yoel Razvozov of Yesh Atid, Ze’ev Elkin and Yoaz Hendel of New Hope, Tamar Zandberg and Issawi Frej of Meretz and Matan Kahana of Yamina.

The new Yisrael Beytenu MKs will be Yossi Shein, Limor Magen Telem and Elina Bardach-Yalov. The new MKs from Blue and White are Mufid Mari’e, former MK Ruth Wasserman Lande and Alon Tal. Yamina’s newest MK is Shirley Pinto. Meretz will now get former MK Michal Rozin back as well as Gaby Lasky. New Hope will be joined by Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzchak Halevi and former MK Zvi Hauser. In Yesh Atid, the newest MKs are Tania Mazarsky and Yasmin Sax Fridman.