Ayoub Kara promoted to communications minister
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Ayoub Kara promoted to communications minister

Move comes 3 months after Netanyahu was forced to relinquish the post amid a police probe into suspected media scam

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Likud MK Ayoub Kara attends a meeting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on December 30, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Likud MK Ayoub Kara attends a meeting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on December 30, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Cabinet ministers on Sunday voted to approve the appointment of Ayoub Kara to the post of communications minister, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office made a surprise announcement that Kara would serve as his permanent replacement in the role.

Netanyahu resigned the position three months ago amid a High Court petition and an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged collusion with major media outlets. He appointed Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, seen as a close confidant, to the post for a three-month trial period.

The cabinet voted on the appointment during its weekly meeting, which was held in the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem’s Old City in honor of Jerusalem Day, celebrated last Wednesday.

The appointment of Kara, who for several months has served as a minister-without-portfolio, was taken by commentators as a sign the prime minister was not satisfied with how Hanegbi handled the ministry.

Communications Minister Tzachi Hanegbi speaks at a stamp issuance for Etzel fighters at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem on May 17, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Communications Minister Tzachi Hanegbi speaks at a stamp issuance for Etzel fighters at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem on May 17, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

At the time of the Hanegbi’s appointment in February, Kara said he should have been considered for the job.

“It’s not logical that I am being attacked for the prime minister appointing me as a minister-without-portfolio when he has two ministries,” Kara told The Times of Israel, referring to criticism of the practice of appointing someone to the cabinet without giving them a ministry to run.

From the hospital to the cabinet

Kara had been lobbying for a ministerial portfolio since before the formation of the coalition, but has been repeatedly disappointed, at times with sensational consequences.

In May 2015, having threatened to vote against the new coalition if he wasn’t given a post, a dramatic scene played out on the day of the government’s swearing in, with Kara rushed from the Knesset to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital after complaining of chest pains. While Netanyahu derided his threats as “toothless,” with a razor-thin 61-seat coalition in the 120-member Knesset, he needed Kara on board and in the plenum to vote.

Seemingly miraculously, Kara arrived at the Knesset just in time and announced he had been appointed deputy minister for regional cooperation “with the status of a full minister.”

In December, when Hanegbi was put in charge of the Communications Ministry, Kara renewed his fight to become a minister, lobbying his Likud colleagues to put pressure on the prime minister to promote him, according to coalition sources. The campaign worked, with Kara being made minister-without-portfolio in January — Israel’s second-ever Druze cabinet member.

Israeli Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin seen at the Israeli parliament during a vote on a law changing the structure of the new Israel Broadcast Corporation news division, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, April 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin in the Knesset, April 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week, reports surfaced that Netanyahu was considering Tourism Minister Yariv Levin for the communications job, but Levin said he was uninterested. While Levin confirmed that Netanyahu was “examining various options” for the ministry, he told Army Radio he was “satisfied with my job at the Tourism Ministry.”

Netanyahu himself 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 MK 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, conspired on an illicit quid pro quo deal that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Kara did not immediately respond for a request for comment on the appointment.

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