Netanyahu appoints Gilad Erdan to double role of ambassador to US, UN

Likud minister to take over in DC only after US presidential elections, can be replaced by Gantz once he becomes premier; move may help PM with assigning roles in new government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (left) at the Knesset in Jerusalem on September 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (left) at the Knesset in Jerusalem on September 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced that Likud minister Gilad Erdan would be appointed as Israel’s ambassador both to the United Nations and to the United States, as the premier works to divvy up the ministerial portfolios designated for his right-wing religious bloc in the next government.

“I’ve known Gilad for many years. I’m familiar with his skill, experience, expertise, and commitment to defend the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said alongside Erdan, currently the public security minister, in a video statement from his office in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said Erdan would only take over as the envoy in Washington after the US presidential elections in November, leaving his long-time aide Ron Dermer as ambassador until then.

“I’m proud and excited for the privilege to fight for our truth in the world and to defend Israel against the expected challenges,” said Erdan, one of Likud’s most veteran lawmakers.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office said Erdan will continue to serve as a minister until he is officially appointed ambassador by the incoming government.

Illustrative: Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan gives a statement to the press at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City following several terror attacks in and around Jerusalem, on February 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Under the coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White — which will see them rotate the post of prime minister — Netanyahu can pick Israel’s ambassadors to the UN, United Kingdom, France and Australia for the duration of the government’s tenure, while each of them can choose their own envoy to the US while serving as premier.

A Blue and White spokesperson reiterated that Gantz will make his own appointment.

Netanyahu previously offered Erdan the UN ambassador’s role after the first of three consecutive elections held over the past year, but the latter said he turned it down to stay and help Likud win the subsequent elections.

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.

Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon speaks in the Security Council, at United Nations headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Erdan will replace the current ambassador, Danny Danon, a former Likud minister who was appointed to a three-year term in 2015, and has had his tenure extended several times.

With Erdan’s decision to serve as ambassador, Netanyahu can appoint another Likud lawmaker to a top ministerial position, as senior party members tussle for the reduced number of ministries Likud will have in the next government.

It could also allow him to make a more generous offer to the national-religious Yamina party, a key member of his bloc, which is warning that it will head to the opposition, as it remains at odds with Likud over its role in the new coalition.

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