Avidar Appointed Minister After Threatening to Break With Coalition

YERUSHALAYIM -
Yisrael Beytenu’s Eli Avidar. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar on Tuesday was formally appointed minister in charge of strategic planning in the Prime Minister’s Office.

It was not immediately clear what Avidar’s portfolio will entail. In June, the government closed the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which was largely concerned with battling boycotts against Israel.

Upon his swearing-in, Avidar quit the Knesset under the Norwegian Law that allows MKs appointed to a ministerial post to step down temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s slate to enter the Knesset in their stead.

Following his resignation, Yisrael Beytenu candidate Sharon Rofeh-Ofir, a journalist, will enter the Knesset.

Avidar has served in Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu since 2019, but ties between the two soured after the formation of the new government when Avidar was not given a ministerial post.

On the day of the new government’s swearing-in, Avidar said that he would no longer vote along with party lines, after Liberman did not grant him his choice of ministerial post.

Liberman, who was set to be named Finance Minister, offered Avidar the position of a minister within his office. Avidar declined, recognizing that he would have little independence in such a position. He asked Liberman to name him either Agriculture Minister or Minister of the Negev and the Galilee, but Liberman combined the two portfolios and handed it to the party’s Oded Forer.

Though he later said he was committed to the government, Avidar proceeded to declare himself an “independent MK,” and reportedly threatened to vote against the coalition’s budget proposal. If it fails to pass a budget by early November, the government will automatically collapse.

Following negotiations between Avidar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, a compromise was reached under which Avidar would be named minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of strategic planning. He will later be appointed Intelligence Minister, once Yesh Atid’s Elazar Stern, who currently holds the post, becomes head of the Jewish Agency.

Avidar was a prominent activist in the weekly protests against former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The new cabinet thus has 29 ministers and seven deputy ministers, making it the third-largest government in Israel’s history.