Netanyahu said to be considering Likud’s Ohana for Justice Ministry

PM — unable to keep portfolio while facing corruption indictments, pending a hearing, in 3 cases — reportedly mulls tapping fellow MK, a lawyer, for role

Israeli parliament member Amir Ohana at the Knesset. July 25, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israeli parliament member Amir Ohana at the Knesset. July 25, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering appointing Likud MK Amir Ohana as acting justice minister, Channel 13 news reported Tuesday.

Ayelet Shaked formally departed from the Justice Ministry earlier Tuesday after she was fired by Netanyahu in a cabinet reshuffle on Sunday which also targeted Naftali Bennett, in a move widely seen as a way to prevent the once-popular right-wing ministers from using their positions to bolster their campaigns ahead of the September’s polls.

The open ministerial position in the meantime reverted to Netanyahu, who as well as prime minister, also holds the defense, education, and health portfolios.

Initially the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu would temporarily assume the roles of education and justice ministers until replacements were found, but after backlash over him holding the latter portfolio with three corruption indictments, pending a hearing, hanging over his head, his office backtracked and announced that interim ministers would be appointed next week.

Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich (right) with MK Amir Ohana at the Kneeset, August 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud’s Yariv Levin, currently minister of tourism as well as immigration and absorption, has long been angling for the Justice Ministry, but on Sunday said he had no interest in serving there in an interim capacity.

Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties on Monday called on  Netanyahu to appoint him as Shaked’s replacement, saying he wanted to impose Jewish religious law on the country. However, Likud sources reportedly said there was no chance Smotrich would get the position after his comments.

Ohana is a lawyer by training and became the first openly gay MK in a right-wing party when he was elected to the Knesset in 2015.

The Knesset last Wednesday night voted to disband and called new elections for September 17, after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition due to an impasse between the secular Yisrael Beytenu party and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Given the seven-day post-election advisory period for the president’s appointing a PM-designate, and the roughly seven-week period usually granted to premiers to negotiate a coalition, Ohana — or whoever Netanyahu finally appoints as interim justice minister — could serve in the position well into mid-November.

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