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Likud firebrand David Amsalem seen as leading candidate for Knesset speaker

Other senior Likud MKs reportedly being considered for the position include Amir Ohana, Yoav Kisch, Danny Danon and Ofir Akunis; party denies reports

MK David Amsalem at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 8, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
MK David Amsalem at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 8, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Likud MK David (Dudi) Amsalem is Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s leading candidate for the position of Knesset speaker, according to a Thursday report.

After Likud reached a deal with Shas overnight Wednesday-Thursday, completing negotiations over cabinet posts with its coalition partners in the next government, Netanyahu has now turned his attention to assigning posts to members of his own party.

Speaking at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Amsalem hinted at the possible appointment, saying: “I never said I would only accept the position of justice minister, I said it was either that or the position of Knesset speaker.”

Amsalem rose to prominence in the Likud on the back of his fierce loyalty to Netanyahu and was one of the loudest voices questioning the motivation behind the corruption charges leveled at the former prime minister.

He has frequently called to overhaul the judicial system and clashed publicly with Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, accusing her and the court of discriminating against Jews of Middle Eastern origin.

Known as a firebrand with a brash style, who has frequently engaged in heckling from his Knesset seat and confrontational oratory from the podium, he would be an unorthodox choice for Speaker of the House, a post that combines running the parliament — ensuring a dignified debate and upholding the Knesset laws — representing it overseas, and filling in for the president when he is unavailable.

Other senior Likud MKs being considered for the position of speaker include Amir Ohana, Yoav Kisch, Danny Danon and Ofir Akunis, according to the Ynet news site.

Alongside Amsalem, Netanyahu is also reportedly considering Likud MK Yariv Levin as justice minister, Likud MK Yoav Galant as defense minister and Likud MK Eli Cohen as education minister.

Likud said in a statement that reports of expected appointments were not true. “At this stage, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is only listening to the demands of the Likud MKs,” the party said.

Likud head MK Benjamin Netanyahu seen after coalition talks outside a hotel in Jerusalem, December 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu has faced criticism from several senior lawmakers within his party in recent weeks for handing over a number of key cabinet portfolios to other parties in his bloc rather than keeping them within the faction.

One potential appointment that has been contested by Likud members is that of Ron Dermer, a long-time confidant of Netanyahu, as foreign minister.

At the same time, Netanyahu has reportedly been considering offering senior ministerial roles to MKs who have either made moves against his leadership recently or have been perceived as doing so, in order neutralize the threat within the party’s ranks.

These include Amsalem, David Bitan, Yuli Edelstein and Israel Katz

Likud MKs David Bitan (L) and David Amsalem attend a Knesset committee meeting on September 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s 28-day mandate to assemble a government expires at midnight on Sunday night.

On Thursday Netanyahu formally asked President Isaac Herzog for the maximum extension of two weeks to finish forming a government, saying that the complexity of cobbling together a coalition required extra time.

Responding to Netanyahu’s extension request, Yesh Atid called it a sign of the longtime premier’s “weakness” in coalition talks.

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