Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has reportedly offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave the Health Ministry and take up the Housing portfolio instead.
Channel 12 reported Thursday that Litzman had told Netanyahu of various unspecified considerations for the move, which he asserted was not tied to recent public criticism of his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The report said Litzman had apparently been instructed by Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the head of the Gur Hasidic sect, to change ministries.
His office said it wasn’t familiar with the matter.
Litzman, who leads the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, has been the de facto head of the Health Ministry since 2009, except for a period between 2013 and 2015 when he was out of the government.
He has been largely absent from the public eye over the two months of the coronavirus crisis (the past three weeks of which he spent being treated for a COVID-19 infection alongside his wife). Though he appeared in some earlier briefings, the face of the Health Ministry’s response has been its director-general, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, leading some to speculate on the level of Litzman’s involvement in the ministry’s decision-making.
Litzman came under heavy criticism when a television report said he took part in group prayers in violation of his own ministry’s guidelines shortly before he was infected with the coronavirus.
He has also faced criticism for allegedly using his position to aid an accused pedophile, which police have recommended he face charges over.
The Health Ministry was floated during coalition negotiations as potentially going to the Blue and White party, but Litzman was said to have vetoed the option, insisting on keeping hold of the portfolio as part of any coalition deal between UTJ and Netanyahu.