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Gamliel and Porush approved as ministers, bringing cabinet to 31 members

Knesset okays Likud’s Gila Gamliel as intel minister, while UTJ’s Meir Porush is to become the Jerusalem, tradition and Mount Meron minister

MK Gila Gamliel, right, arrives for a group picture of the new government at the president's residence in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90); MK Meir Porush arrives to coalition talks at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv, on November 10, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
MK Gila Gamliel, right, arrives for a group picture of the new government at the president's residence in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90); MK Meir Porush arrives to coalition talks at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv, on November 10, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Knesset on Monday approved the appointment of two new ministers, bringing the number of ministers in the new government to 31.

Likud’s Gila Gamliel was okayed as intelligence minister, while United Torah Judaism’s Meir Porush was approved as head of the Jerusalem, Tradition and Mount Meron Ministry, a rebranding of the current Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry.

Gamliel, who previously served as social equality minister and environmental protection minister, was sworn in on Monday, while Porush will take office at a later, unspecified date.

According to Hebrew media reports, the delay in Porush’s assumption of the office is the result of miscommunication between UTJ and Netanyahu.

A recent statement to the media by UTJ indicated that Porush had agreed to serve as a deputy minister in the Jerusalem, Tradition and Mount Meron Ministry.

Netanyahu, however, clarified to Porush that as deputy minister he would not be able to oversee the implementation of decisions made by a committee probing a deadly disaster at Mount Meron in 2021 and would therefore need to be appointed minister.

MK Meir Porush, right, in the Knesset, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“In the next few days, MK Porush will hold consultations with the great rabbis of Israel on the matter,” a statement issued by UTJ read.

UTJ has for decades avoided taking up ministry posts so as to not bear responsibility for actions taken by Israel’s secular leadership.

A copy of the coalition deal signed between Likud and UTJ said the new Jerusalem and Jewish tradition minister “will be responsible for strengthening Jewish tradition, deepening the knowledge and connection of all parts of Israeli society to the tradition” and advancing related projects.

The new minister will also oversee the annual Lag B’Omer festival at Mount Meron in northern Israel and be tasked with implementing the recommendations of an investigative committee looking into the deadly crush at the religious site that left 45 dead and over 150 injured.

Mount Meron, the site of the grave of second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, is traditionally visited by thousands of mainly ultra-Orthodox worshipers on the anniversary of his death during the holiday of Lag B’Omer, several weeks after Passover.

Victims of the April 30, 2021, Mount Meron disaster: Top row (L-R): Chen Doron, Haim Rock, Ariel Tzadik, Yossi Kohn, Yisrael Anakvah, Yishai Mualem, Yosef Mastorov, Elkana Shiloh and Moshe Levy; 2nd row (L-R): Shlomo Zalman Leibowitz, Shmuel Zvi Klagsbald, Mordechai Fakata, Dubi Steinmetz, Abraham Daniel Ambon, Eliezer Gafner, Yosef Greenbaum, Yehuda Leib Rubin and Yaakov Elchanan Starkovsky; 3rd row (L-R): Haim Seler, Yehoshua Englard, Moshe Natan Neta Englard, Yedidia Hayut, Moshe Ben Shalom, David Krauss, Eliezer Tzvi Joseph, Yosef Yehuda Levy and Yosef Amram Tauber; 4th row (L-R): Menachem Knoblowitz, Elazar Yitzchok Koltai, Yosef David Elhadad, Shraga Gestetner, Yonatan Hebroni, Shimon Matalon, Elazar Mordechai Goldberg, Moshe Bergman and Daniel Morris; 5th row (L-R): Ariel Achdut, Moshe Mordechai Elhadad, Hanoch Slod, Yedidya Fogel, Menahem Zakbah, Simcha Diskind, Moshe Tzarfati, Nahman Kirshbaum and Eliyahu Cohen.

Porush, No. 3 on UTJ’s electoral list, had objected to the formation of the state inquiry to look into the tragedy. Last month, he requested full responsibility over Mount Meron, which will include making sure the committee’s decisions are carried out.

Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari called Porush “shameless” for making the request.

“All year long we have dealt with Meron, and no Haredi Knesset member has bothered to study the problems and the corrections we made to save lives. All they care about is business,” she said at the time.

Netanyahu swore his government in on Thursday, bringing together five far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners, along with his right-wing Likud party.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report. 

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