Benny Begin, Likud veteran and son of late prime minister Menachem Begin, resigned his position as minister without portfolio as a result of Gilad Erdan’s ascension to the government.
The move was forced upon Begin after a week-long standoff with the prime minister, as Erdan’s belated decision to join the coalition meant the government was fully staffed. Coalition agreements limit the cabinet to 20 ministers, 12 of whom are from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
Begin, who served for barely two weeks, formally stood aside on Friday, but his departure was not announced until Sunday, at the weekly cabinet meeting — which he did not attend.
Netanyahu, who had pleaded in vain with his coalition colleagues to help him find a way to retain Begin as a minister, praised Begin for his conduct.
“There isn’t a shred of truth to the assertion that Benny Begin said he would refuse to resign from the government,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “There is no man with more integrity and ethics than him. Benny is an exemplary public servant. He is man of values with a lot of experience and numerous abilities. He is one of the central elements of the Likud party.”
Earlier reports had suggested that the prime minister would offer another Likud minister without portfolio, Ofir Akunis, the position of Israel’s ambassador to the UN, which could have enabled Begin to stay on. Akunis was first considered for the post last September, when Avigdor Liberman still controlled the Foreign Ministry. “I was offered the job before. In the event it is offered again I would consider it seriously and positively,” Akunis told Israel Radio.
Meanwhile, Erdan’s late entry into the cabinet, and his slot in the powerful security cabinet, made for trouble there too.
Netanyahu moved to solve that case of over-staffing by having Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Absorption Minister Minister Ze’ev Elkin share their seat on the panel by rotation.
Begin first served as a member of the Knesset in 1988. In 1993, he lost to Netanyahu in a bid to lead Likud.
Netanyahu personally placed Begin on the 2015 Likud election slate in the No. 11 slot. His recent ministerial stint totaled only 17 days.