In first, minister from ultra-Orthodox UTJ sworn in
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In first, minister from ultra-Orthodox UTJ sworn in

Breaking long-standing party taboo, Yaakov Litzman takes over Health Ministry; Ofir Akunis approved to replace Danny Danon

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (L) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after being sworn in as minister in the Knesset plenum on September 2, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (L) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after being sworn in as minister in the Knesset plenum on September 2, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Heath Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) and Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) were officially sworn in to the cabinet on Wednesday, following a Knesset vote.

Litzman received 83 votes in favor of his appointment and 10 against. The new health minister was then formally sworn in, becoming the first member of his ultra-Orthodox party to serve as a minister in the Israeli parliament.

Litzman’s promotion comes after the High Court ruled earlier this month that his service as deputy health minister with no presiding minister was unlawful.

The ultra-Orthodox Knesset members in his party have previously avoided ministerial positions due to their community’s reluctance to grant full legitimacy to a secular Jewish state. However, following the High Court ruling, Litzman last week received rabbinical approval to become a full minister.

Akunis is replacing Likud MK Danny Danon, who is set to become the Israeli envoy to the UN. He was approved for the position with 57 Knesset members in favor, and 33 opposed.

Minister Ofir Akunis on August 30, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister Ofir Akunis on August 30, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier Wednesday, two opposition lawmakers announced their resignation from political life and Likud MK Sharren Haskel was sworn in to the Knesset, replacing Danon on the Likud party slate.

Shai Piron of Yesh Atid, a former education minister, said in a press release Wednesday morning that he would to take up a senior teaching position at a Sderot college. Shortly afterward, Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Sharon Gal announced his own political exit, stating that he would put his talents to better use by resuming his journalistic career.

Likud MK Sharren Haskel speaks after being sworn into the Knesset on September 2, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Sharren Haskel speaks after being sworn into the Knesset on September 2, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With Danon’s appointment as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Canadian-born 31-year-old Likud party member Haskel entered the Knesset on Wednesday.

Haskel’s arrival in the Knesset marks an all-time high of 30 female lawmakers — 25 percent — in the 120-seat Israeli parliament. Haskel was 31st on the Likud party list going into the March elections and missed the cut by a single seat.

Josefin Dolsten and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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