Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reconsidering his decision to tap Israel’s new UN ambassador Gilad Erdan as, in addition to his current role, envoy to the United States, and is considering another candidate, a report said Thursday.
The report by the Walla news site, which was denied by the premier’s office, said that Netanyahu had held a rare private meeting with Erdan and quoted two unnamed senior sources assessing that he wants to tap Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz as the ambassador in Washington instead.
The sources said the change stemmed from the US election results and the upcoming Joe Biden presidency.
The move requires Erdan’s okay, followed by a cabinet decision. The report said Netanyahu would let Erdan choose whether he wants to remain UN envoy or switch to being the US ambassador, with Steinitz taking the role Erdan doesn’t pick.
The Prime Minister’s Office commented that “the prime minister doesn’t want Erdan to give up the position in Washington and there is no change in his status.”
In May, Netanyahu announced that Erdan, until then a top minister in his Likud party, would be appointed ambassador both to the United Nations and to the United States.
“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 at the time alongside Erdan, until then 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, leaving the prime minister’s longtime aide Ron Dermer in place as ambassador, presumably until the January inauguration.
Erdan’s nomination has since been approved by the cabinet, meaning a new appointment would require another cabinet vote.
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.