Cabinet unanimously okays Liberman as defense minister
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Cabinet unanimously okays Liberman as defense minister

Coalition deal goes forward after Netanyahu, Bennett agree on security cabinet overhaul; new ministers to be sworn in after Knesset vote

Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Avigdor Liberman, left, sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Avigdor Liberman, left, sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

The government unanimously gave the go-ahead for Avigdor Liberman to become defense minister Monday morning as a deal to bring his five-seat Yisrael Beytenu faction into the coalition moved forward.

Party member Sofa Landver was also voted in as immigrant absorption minister, and Likud member Tzachi Hanegbi was made minister without portfolio, according to a message from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The three are set to be sworn in as ministers on Monday afternoon once the Knesset, too, approves the move.

The confirmation came after late-night talks led to the resolution of a coalition crisis that threatened to topple the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a demand by Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett for an overhaul to the security cabinet.

Bennett, a senior cabinet member, had threatened to vote against the appointment of Liberman to the Defense Ministry — thus torpedoing the coalition deal Likud and Yisrael Beytenu signed last week — if his demand for greater intelligence-sharing in the high-level security cabinet was not met.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett shake hands in this image released by Netanyahu's Likud party after the two men announced that they had reached an agreement that would see Jewish Home join a Netanyahu-led coalition, Wednesday, May 6, 2015 (photo credit: new media/Likud)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (photo credit: new media/Likud)

The Jewish Home head wanted Netanyahu to appoint a military attaché for the sensitive 10-member inner cabinet committee to provide ministers with real-time security updates, coordinate additional fact-finding visits to IDF bases and other military zones, and facilitate easier access to classified information.

Netanyahu on Sunday accepted a proposal put forth by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) that acting head of the National Security Council Brigadier General (ret.) Yaakov Nagel, or his deputy, temporarily act as a military attaché to the cabinet.

The temporary position will remain filled until a committee being formed by Netanyahu to find a more permanent solution has finished its work.

Litzman welcomed the agreement reached between Netanyahu and Bennett Monday morning and said new elections would have been in nobody’s interest.

“I am hopeful this government will, God willing, expand and continue serving all of Israel,” he said according to Channel 2.

Bennett’s threat had initially caused the Knesset to postpone a vote scheduled for Monday to approve Liberman’s appointment. The vote was later reinstated.

A Jewish Home vote against Netanyahu’s pick for the sensitive defense post would have torpedoed the newly inked coalition deal, part of a months-long efforts by the prime minister to expand his wafer-thin Knesset majority.

The Likud had warned that a vote against Liberman’s appointment would have meant the immediate firing of Jewish Home’s three cabinet ministers — Education Minister Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel — and likely the collapse of the coalition.

Netanyahu on Friday offered to establish a committee headed by former Israel National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror that would examine ways to reform the security cabinet, but Bennett rejected the suggestion.

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