In their lengthy meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid the position of finance or foreign minister in the next government, according to sources close to both men who were cited by Yedioth Ahronoth.
Since elections on Tuesday, when Yesh Atid won 19 seats and became the second-largest party in the Knesset, Lapid’s political horizons have broadened significantly, and he is expected to take a senior ministerial role in the next governing coalition.
Lapid’s advisers, however, have urged him not to take the Finance Ministry because of widespread budgetary cuts expected in the coming months, which could hurt his image.
Also, historically, the Finance Ministry has been the Elba of cabinet positions. Only three people have ever continued on from the Finance Ministry to the position of prime minister: Levi Eshkol, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert.
Former foreign minister and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman hinted Thursday that he would be willing to abandon his own preference for taking back the foreign affairs portfolio — he resigned last month to battle a corruption charge — in favor of Lapid.
But on Wednesday, Liberman had intimated that because of Lapid’s concern for socioeconomic affairs, he might more naturally gravitate to the Finance Ministry. With a financial crisis brewing, Liberman would presumably be content to see his new rival crucified daily in the press.
On Thursday, the Yisrael Beytenu head left it up to the prime minister, saying, “The Foreign Ministry portfolio doesn’t have my name on it.”
Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan (Likud) said Thursday and Friday that it was “unnatural” for Lapid to demand the helm of the Foreign Ministry, since the Yesh Atid chief campaigned on a domestic and largely socioeconomic platform.
The Foreign Ministry could give Lapid the necessary leadership and diplomatic experience to shape himself as a viable candidate for prime minister in the next elections.
Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.