Likud’s Akunis becomes regional cooperation minister
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Likud’s Akunis becomes regional cooperation minister

Entering role, lawmaker says he believes in ‘peace that comes from a point of strength, rather than weakness’; replaces Erdan who was tapped as envoy to UN, US

Likud MK Ofir Akunis speaks at the Knesset, on May 20, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Likud MK Ofir Akunis speaks at the Knesset, on May 20, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Likud MK Ofir Akunis on Tuesday entered the role of minister for regional cooperation, replacing Gilad Erdan who has been confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations and to the United States.

Akunis laid out his vision on regional cooperation during a ceremony, saying he believed in “peace that comes from a point of strength, rather than weakness.”

“In our region, you make peace with the strong and you drive peace away when you retreat,” he said.

“We will promote economic peace, joint initiatives, including in infrastructure, that will help get many Israelis who were hurt by the coronavirus crisis back to the workforce,” Akunis said.

He said the ministry would “go back, in the near future, to functioning as a leader of collaboration and big economic projects.”

Companies from Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday signed an agreement to join forces to research and develop technology in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Akunis, a Likud lawmaker since 2009, has previously served as science and technology minister and as labor and welfare minister.

The cabinet on Sunday approved Erdan’s appointments. He will immediately replace UN Ambassador Danny Danon and on January 21 take over from Ron Dermer as ambassador to the US. After that, Erdan will fill both roles.

Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer speaks at AIPAC’s policy conference, March 24, 2019 (AIPAC screenshot)

The arrangement was planned under the unity coalition deal formed in April.

At the cabinet meeting Sunday, Erdan told ministers he is only leaving “temporarily.”

“I am going to represent Israel with tremendous pride,” he said. “These are difficult days for Israel and the US — and in particular for US Judaism. The coronavirus hit many and it is threatening the lives of citizens and their livelihoods. We must show solidarity with our brothers who are fighting abroad for the existence of Jewish lives.

Likud’s Gilad Erdan in Jerusalem, May 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“This is a central mission. In the coming years we expect many challenges: Iran, and old and new anti-Semitism,” Erdan said.

The only person to previously serve as ambassador to the US and the UN at the same time was Abba Eban, who is viewed as one of Israel’s greatest diplomats.

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