Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday night that he would be handing over the immigration and absorption portfolio to Likud confidant and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
“I decided to appoint Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to the additional position of immigration minister. Good luck Yariv!” the prime minister tweeted after saying earlier in the day that he would appoint someone to the position by midnight.
But Netanyahu, who inherited the ministry from Yisrael Beytenu’s Sofa Landver when her party quit the government in November, opted not to appoint Levin as a permanent replacement but only as an acting minister, a position that cannot be extended beyond three months.
The temporary appointment only needs the approval of the cabinet, which came in a ministerial telephone vote after Netanyahu’s announcement, and not a vote of confidence in the Knesset.
When Landver, along with former defense minister Avigdor Liberman officially resigned on November 15, Netanyahu became defacto immigration and absorption minister, with the obligation to name either a permanent or temporary replacement within two weeks.
Naming himself as defense minister the same day, Netanyahu said he planned to appoint somebody to the immigration and absorption ministry, as well as to the foreign ministry, which he has headed since the 2015 elections.
Netanyahu’s decision will likely have angered several Likud lawmakers who had been vying for the position. Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, who currently serves as deputy foreign minister, had been considered a front-runner to take the role, according to coalition sources. Kulanu MK Michael Oren had also publicly stated his interest in the position, saying party chair Moshe Kahlon had “demanded” he receive it.
Amid criticism of his holding a number of key portfolios, Netanyahu told his ministers on Sunday that he would appoint a new immigration minister by midnight and keep another promise to appoint someone else foreign minister by next month. A number of senior Likud ministers are pining for that role, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Transportation Minister Israel Katz claiming to have already been promised the portfolio by Netanyahu.
On Monday, Knesset members voted to formalize Netanyahu’s appointment as permanent defense minister, a position he took on after Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman resigned, citing Israel’s policy toward Gaza.
Netanyahu asserted at the time that Israel was in the middle of a military campaign, which he claimed he was the only person capable of steering the country through.
Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett, who had initially demanded the role for himself, and party number two Ayelet Shaked reportedly voted against the appointment in the cabinet, but supported the parliamentary vote.
As well as serving as prime minister, Netanyahu is now also the foreign minister, defense minister and health minister.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.