Gilad Erdan confirmed as minister, riling rivals

Netanyahu pushes Benny Begin out of his cabinet after 10 days, curtails Ze’ev Elkin’s powers to make way for Likud party’s No. 2

Gilad Erdan, May 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Gilad Erdan, May 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Senior Likud lawmaker Gilad Erdan was confirmed as a minister on Monday, after a week of uncertainty regarding the role he would fill in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new cabinet.

Erdan will lead both the Public Security Ministry and the Strategic Affairs Ministry. The move riled ministers whose offices were curtailed in order to make way for Erdan, who won the party’s No. 2 slot in Likud primaries, behind only Netanyahu.

Ministers approved Erdan’s appointment via a telephone poll on Monday afternoon, and Knesset members voted him in that night by a margin of 58-55. After the vote in the plenum, Erdan ascended to the lectern and was sworn into office.

In addition to public security and strategic affairs, Erdan will also be in charge of public diplomacy and the Iran dossier, a position previously held by Yuval Steinitz, who fumed at the development, Israel Radio reported.

The Public Security Ministry had initially been handed to Yariv Levin, and the Strategic Affairs Ministry to Ze’ev Elkin, who told the news site Haaretz that he would conduct himself “like a minister who has been fired.”

At the helm of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, Erdan will also likely get a seat in the exclusive security cabinet.

He is expected to head a team in charge of fighting international efforts to boycott Israeli products and cultural initiatives.

Erdan is to also resume his old position as communications minister, a role briefly held by Netanyahu himself.

His induction into the government ended a week-long dispute with Netanyahu over his position in the cabinet. After the ministers were sworn in without Erdan on May 7, a Likud party statement noted that negotiations were underway to break the gridlock and secure Erdan a government position.

The big loser of Erdan’s turnaround will be Likud stalwart Benny Begin, son of former prime minister Menachem Begin, who is to be forced to resign as minister-without-portfolio after only 10 days on the job, apparently so as not to inflate the total number of ministers in the cabinet.

In a lengthy Facebook post Monday afternoon, Erdan explained his decision to enter Netanyahu’s cabinet a week after he turned down the prime minister’s offer to join.

“In every government office one can do a lot for the public, but only if one is given the capacity to act and the necessary support to carry out significant processes,” he said. “When I thought that they didn’t give me the necessary conditions to make a real difference in the police and the individual security of each of us, I preferred to give up the position… It seems to me at the moment, since I have been assured the necessary tools, that I have the ability to effect change.”

Erdan noted that he and Netanyahu had agreed on “significant additional budgeting for the Public Security Ministry and the advance of legislation that will fortify the ministry, to enable me to make a real change in the police, to increase enforcement and to deal with the existing maladies.”

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