Netanyahu sorts out final ministerial posts

After late-night haggling, Shalom to serve as minister of energy and water, Steinitz to be minister of international relations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and the incoming Minister of Energy Silvan Shalom (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and the incoming Minister of Energy Silvan Shalom (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90/File)

Shortly after 2 a.m. local time on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handed out some last ministerial posts to veteran Likud party members Silvan Shalom and Yuval Steinitz.

Netanyahu had spent all day Sunday handing out marching orders for the next Cabinet and other government roles. The final maneuvering took place just hours before the swearing-in of the 19th Knesset.

The outgoing vice prime minister Shalom was appointed minister of energy, and he agreed to stay on as minister of regional development in charge of the Negev and the Galilee, a post with which he was said to be unhappy. Earlier, Shalom threatened to stay out of the government unless offered a job of greater “significance.” He finished third in the Likud primaries last November.

Shalom was also offered a place in the seven-strong “security cabinet.”

Outgoing finance minister Steinitz, who placed 15th in party primaries, will take on the role of minister of International Relations, combining the ministries of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs. The Finance Ministry will be headed by Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid.

Steinitz had been expected to receive the Ministry of Energy post, and late Sunday he and Shalom were taking turns in the prime minister’s office, trying to sway Netanyahu.

Among the big winners earlier Sunday were Moshe Ya’alon, who was made defense minister, Gideon Sa’ar, given the Interior Ministry, and Gilad Erdan, who walked out with both the home front defense and communications portfolios.

Erdan, outgoing minister of environmental protection, was also invited to join the security cabinet. Likud sources confirmed the security cabinet would be reduced from 15 members to just seven. The security cabinet is the inner ministerial committee that votes on the most important and pressing defense and diplomacy decisions.

Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff was the first in to see Netanyahu, and was asked to fill the shoes of Ehud Barak as defense minister. Ya’alon was minister for strategic affairs in the previous government.

Danny Danon, who came in fifth in the Likud party primaries, was offered the post of deputy defense minister. Yesh Atid’s Ofer Shelah turned down the post, branding it pointless and Danon, an Education Corps officer, had demanded a Cabinet position.

“When was the last time the person who came in at No. 5 in the Likud primaries wasn’t made a minister?” he asked on Army Radio shortly before accepting the job, dismissing the idea of a deputy ministership as “meaningless.” Later he said it was a very worthwhile appointment, and that he still hoped he might be bumped up to a Cabinet post later on.

Yisrael Katz will stay on as transportation minister; and Limor Livnat will carry on as minister of sports and culture.

Likud ran on a joint list with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party in the January 22 elections, earning 31 Knesset seats.

Ofir Akunis will be a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, liaising between the government and the Knesset.

Former coalition charman Ze’ev Elkin was confirmed as deputy foreign minister. Elkin is to run the ministry in the absence of Yisrael Beytenu leader Liberman until the latter’s legal battles are resolved, and then to work as Liberman’s deputy should he be cleared of charges of fraud and breach of trust.

On Saturday, Netanyahu met with President Shimon Peres to tell him that he had managed to muster a majority coalition. Peres charged him with the task on February 2, in the wake of the January 22 elections, and gave him a two-week extension four weeks later, making Saturday the final day of Netanyahu’s maximal six-week allocation.

Netanyahu was able to report on his success after the Jewish Home and Yesh Atid parties finally signed a coalition agreement with Likud-Beytenu Friday afternoon, paving the way for the new government to be sworn in on Monday.

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