Netanyahu reportedly looking to replace communications minister
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Netanyahu reportedly looking to replace communications minister

Prime minister said to offer portfolio to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, in possible sign of dissatisfaction with current minister Tzachi Hanegbi

L-R Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Communications Minister Tzachi Hanegbi at the weekly Likud party meeting at the Knesset, on June 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
L-R Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Communications Minister Tzachi Hanegbi at the weekly Likud party meeting at the Knesset, on June 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving to name Tourism Minister Yariv Levin as head of the Communications Ministry, replacing key Likud ally Tzachi Hanegbi in a minor cabinet shakeup, according to Hebrew media reports Wednesday.

Netanyahu offered Levin the position and is pressuring him to accept, according to a report in Channel 10 news Wednesday.

Levin did not respond to media requests over whether he would accept. Hanegbi told Walla news that he had not yet discussed the subject with the prime minister.

Hanegbi, seen as close to Netanyahu, was appointed to the post in February for a three-month trial period which expires in four days, after a legal challenge forced Netanyahu to give up the ministry.

According to Channel 10, Levin turned down the position three months ago, leading to Hanegbi’s temporary appointment.

The switch is being seen as a signal that the prime minister is not satisfied with how Hanegbi has handled the ministry, according to Channel 2 news.

If he accepts the position, Levin will still retain the tourism portfolio, and will need to be approved by the Knesset next week.

If he declines the offer, it is likely that Hanegbi will retain the ministry on a permanent basis, financial daily The Marker reported.

Netanyahu himself had held the communications portfolio from 2015 until three months ago, when he temporarily handed it over to Hanegbi following a High Court petition from opposition lawmakers.

The petition, filed by Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog, demanded the prime minister be suspended from his position as communications minister, arguing revelations from the criminal investigations into Netanyahu disqualified him from holding the post.

According to Herzog’s petition, Netanyahu had to give up the post due to a police investigation into allegations that he and the publisher of the mass daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Arnon Mozes, negotiated an illicit quid pro quo deal that would have seen the prime minister pass legislation to hamper a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

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