Hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government is to be sworn in, questions remain about the ministerial portfolios that will be given to members of the Likud party.
On Wednesday night, Netanyahu began marathon meetings with members of his party in which he listened to their requests, but so far only the status of Yisrael Katz has been settled.
Netanyahu announced before midnight that Katz will continue in his role as Transportation Minister, and will also take on the Intelligence Ministry and will be a member of the ministerial political-security cabinet.
Netanyahu wished Katz continued success in his work in improving roads and railways across the country while simultaneously filling the role of Intelligence Minister in the face of the many challenges facing the Israeli political-security arena.
Meanwhile, uncertainty remains among other Likud members regarding what their role will be. Netanyahu is expected to have particular difficulties finding a suitable role for Gilad Erdan, who ranked second in the party’s pre-election primaries. Erdan is expecting a senior portfolio, but the Defense Ministry is expected to remain in the hands of Moshe Ya’alon, the Finance Ministry will go to Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon, and Netanyahu has already announced he will retain the Foreign Ministry for himself.
Erdan and Netanyahu met on Wednesday evening but did not reach any understandings and are expected to meet again Thursday.
Other Likud MKs who have not yet been given a portfolio are longtime MK Silvan Shalom, who has also expressed interest in a senior ministry, and Yuval Steinitz, a close associate of Netanyahu.
It has been thus far speculated that Ze’ev Elkin will be appointed Absorption Minister, Yariv Levin will receive the Tourism Ministry, Miri Regev will be appointed Culture and Sports Minister, and Ofir Akunis will be Communications Minister. Other options as ministers from the Likud include Gila Gamliel, Haim Katz and Benny Begin.
Netanyahu now has some more ministerial portfolios to hand out, after the Knesset voted to increase the number of ministers beyond 18.
Following the approval of the motion to increase the number of ministers in the cabinet, Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein announced that the Knesset will convene on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. for the swearing in of the new government.
During the meeting, Netanyahu will present his new government and its political platform, and then opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog will give a speech before the ministers are sworn in.