A day after Israel’s 34th government was sworn in and its new cabinet presented, glaringly omitting prominent Likud MK Gilad Erdan, the number two on the ruling party list said he decided not to join the government out of “substantive” reasons, namely that the ministerial offers made to him by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were insufficient.
Erdan, who served as interior minister in the outgoing government, sought the public security dossier as well and thus to mold his ministry similarly to parallel ministries around the world, where the ministry of interior affairs is also in charge of the police and other non-military security forces. Netanyahu reportedly rejected the proposal and instead offered Erdan the Public Security and Intelligence Affairs ministries, the latter held by Netanyahu confidant Yuval Steinitz in the previous government.
The Public Security Ministry eventually went to the Likud’s Yariv Levin, while the Interior Ministry will be headed by veteran Likud member Silvan Shalom.
In a post on his Facebook page Friday, Erdan said he wished his “fellow ministers success for the sake of us all,” but that he decided not to join the government “along the lines offered to me.”
The rest of the post read: “The reason for this is substantive. From a young age I dreamt of serving the public and acting for the advancement and improvement of the State of Israel. From the moment I was elected, the common good, and nothing else, was my goal. I acted vigorously to advance public interests in the issues of economy, environmental protection, communications, protecting the home front and others.
“I was hoping to continue to serve you in this government too, but, unfortunately, the offer made to me by the prime minister did not give me the tools necessary to lead the real change we need in the Public Security Ministry and the police and to succeed in my public mission. Under these circumstances I could not take this role.”
“Personally, this is a complex day for me and for my good friends who have walked by my side on my political road,” he added.
Ze’ev Elkin, who served as head of the Likud faction in the previous government and was appointed Wednesday evening as the minister of immigration and absorption, called on Erdan to reconsider.
Speaking on Army Radio Friday, Elkin said he and Erdan “exchanged words in the Knesset plenum but it was not a real talk. I am very sorry that Gilad has remained, for the moment, outside the government.”
“I call on him to join the government,” said Elkin. “He is one of the senior members of Likud and should be a senior minister and there is no reason he will not be part of this government. I believe that Gilad can and will find his place in the government.”
In his Knesset speech Wednesday night before the government was sworn in, Netanyahu called on Erdan to reconsider and join the government. He indicated that should Erdan do so, ministerial posts would be reshuffled, but did not elaborate.
Erdan was elected first in the Likud primary last year (and was thus second on the party Knesset slate to party leader Netanyahu). Hitherto, a Netanyahu confidant, he was a vocal supporter of Netanyahu when his wife, Sara, was accused several months ago of siphoning off public money when she allegedly pocketed thousands of shekels in accumulated small change from the deposits on recycled glass bottles.