Netanyahu shuffles portfolios, backs telecom reform

PM splits Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry; also keeps the Foreign Ministry, Communications Ministry

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 19, 2015 (Marc Israel Selleml/Flash90)
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 19, 2015 (Marc Israel Selleml/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he would split up the Jerusalem and Diaspora Ministry, keeping the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio under his leadership.

The Diaspora Affairs Ministry will be governed by the Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, who is also education minister. Bennett also held the Diaspora post in the last Knesset.

The prime minister currently holds the Communications Ministry and Foreign Ministry. On Monday, the prime minister fired the director-general of the Communications Ministry, to much criticism.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued an unusual statement responding to the criticism for the termination earlier this week of Avi Berger. In the statement, Netanyahu’s office said the market reform plans spearheaded by Berger would be implemented by the prime minister.

“The market reform will continue to receive my full backing and unequivocal support,” the statement said.

“The prime minister intends to continue this policy determinedly also in his current role as communication minister. The prime minister supports the reform, promoted during the previous Netanyahu government, and will continue to lead the increased competition and lowering of prices of landline telephony and internet packages offered to the public.”

The decision regarding the Jerusalem affairs portfolio came a day after the prime minister vowed Jerusalem would never be split in any future peace deal with the Palestinians, and said construction throughout the capital would continue, despite international criticism. Palestinian Authority officials responded angrily to the statement, saying “There shall never be peace or stability in the Middle East without East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.”

On Tuesday, the cabinet held a special meeting at the Israel Museum in honor of Jerusalem Day, which was on Sunday, approving a series of decisions intended to strengthen the city of Jerusalem ahead of the 50th anniversary of its reunification in the 1967 Six Day War.

The cabinet decided to establish a preparatory team (a ministerial committee) to plan 2017’s events, which will include various events in the fields of education, tourism, culture and sports, with an emphasis on the 2017 Maccabiah games.

Additionally, a five-year plan (2016-2020) will be formulated on upgrading infrastructures and encouraging visits to the Western Wall plaza including continued development of the Western Wall plaza and tunnels, the preservation of archaeological finds, upgrades to transportation, and expanded educational activity for students and soldiers. The full plan will be submitted for cabinet approval within two weeks, the Government Press Office said in a statement.

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