Gantz’s alternate prime minister office said set to be approved Sunday
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Gantz’s alternate prime minister office said set to be approved Sunday

Water, Higher Education and National Digital ministries will reportedly also be given the nod at cabinet meeting, amid criticism of bloated government

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister and alternate prime minister Benny Gantz are seen at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL)
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister and alternate prime minister Benny Gantz are seen at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL)

The government is to approve a controversial decision to establish a new office for defense minister and alternate prime minister Benny Gantz on Sunday, Channel 12 reported Thursday.

The office will serve Gantz over the next 18 months, and after the planned rotation of prime ministers scheduled under the coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White, will then be transferred to Benjamin Netanyahu when he ends his term as prime minister and becomes alternate prime minister himself.

The office was initially set to be approved last Sunday but the vote was postponed with no reason given.

Channel 12 said that additional ministries would also be approved Sunday, including the Water Ministry, the Higher Education Ministry, the National Digital Ministry and the Strengthening and Advancing Community Ministry.

A cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP)

The government has been widely criticized for its bloated size — nearly half of the MKs in the coalition are ministers — and for the fact that ministries needed to be created in order to hand out enough ministerial posts, many of which are seen as political favors.

The extra ministries are costing the state hundreds of million of shekels at a time when the economy is under stress due to the coronavirus and over a million people are currently unemployed.

The cost of covering just the offices, staff and cars of the record-breaking number of ministers in the coalition is estimated to be around NIS 700 million ($200 million).

The so-called “Norwegian Law” that passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation earlier this week, will — if it passes into law — allow any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.

If 30 new MKs are added to the roster under the law, the additional cost could come to over NIS 40 million per year, or an extra NIS 120 million to the cabinet’s overall cost.

When news that an office was to be established for the alternate prime minister broke last week, Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition, attacked Gantz and Netanyahu for their profligate spending on the new government.

“What does the government of the disconnected bring us this week?” Lapid said. “Not unemployment benefits for the self-employed, not grants for businesses that have gone under water, but an office for the alternate prime minister.”

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