Ohana will head up Foreign Ministry, Regev to be named education minister – report

Either Yoav Kisch or Ofir Akunis said in line for role of Knesset speaker; UTJ reportedly to get Housing Ministry — one of 7 ministries to be controlled by Haredi parties

Likud MK Amir Ohana in Beit El, in the West Bank, July 12, 2022 (Sraya Diamant/Flash90) and (R) MK Miri Regev in Jerusalem, May 29, 2022 (Arie Leib Abrams/FLASH90)
Likud MK Amir Ohana in Beit El, in the West Bank, July 12, 2022 (Sraya Diamant/Flash90) and (R) MK Miri Regev in Jerusalem, May 29, 2022 (Arie Leib Abrams/FLASH90)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party loyalist Amir Ohana is likely to be appointed foreign minister, according to a Tuesday report that set out the expected outline of the incoming prime minister’s cabinet.

The Foreign Ministry had previously been seen as likely to go to former ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. The Biden administration had reportedly sent a message that it would be in favor of Dermer receiving a senior position in the government, after expressing unease over a number of the other expected appointments.

Among other expected appointments reported by Channel 12 was MK Miri Regev shaping up to lead the Education Ministry, and either Yoav Kisch or Ofir Akunis as Knesset speaker. All three are Likud MKs.

Earlier Tuesday, two senior lawmakers from within the Likud party criticized Netanyahu for handing a number of senior positions in his expected coalition to allies outside the party.

Netanyahu has reportedly reached a compromise with far-right Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich in their stalled coalition talks, with the latter agreeing to give up his demand to be defense minister and instead take over the Treasury.

According to the new report, the defense portfolio will remain with Netanyahu’s Likud party and will go to Likud MK Yoav Gallant, a former IDF general.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Yoav Gallant hold a joint press conference at the Knesset, January 9, 2019, as Gallant joins Netanyahu’s Likud party (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Smotrich had demanded the Defense Ministry, which would have given him significant control over the West Bank and over the daily lives of Palestinians. Such an appointment was fiercely opposed by the United States and was criticized domestically as well, including by right-wing figures who noted Smotrich’s lack of security experience.

According to the report, Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party will nevertheless have some control over Israel’s West Bank policies and will be able to name a subordinate minister within the Defense Ministry.

Under the proposed compromise, which has yet to be confirmed by the parties, Smotrich would gain control of the Finance Ministry, while the other main contender for that job — Shas leader Aryeh Deri — will get the Interior Ministry, one of seven portfolios to be held by the two Haredi parties.

Bezalel Smotrich (second from left) talks to Aryeh Deri (right) at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 6, 2021. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Reports by the Kan public broadcaster and Channel 12 said Deri would receive a “super ministry” that would effectively combine the Interior Ministry and Transportation Ministry into one office — to make up for losing out on the finance minister job.

However, Deri’s appointments face legal challenges that would require changing the country’s quasi-constitutional laws due to Deri’s most recent conviction for financial offenses — his second.

Deri’s ultra-Orthodox party is also expected to receive the Negev and Galilee Ministry and Health Ministry. Kan said the party was also set to control the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, while Channel 12 said that it would instead receive the Religious Services Ministry and a position in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Haredi United Torah Judaism party is expected to hold the Housing Ministry and one other portfolio, Channel 12 reported.

Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, is expected to be named public security minister, giving him control over the police, and his party will also take the Agriculture Ministry.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Otzma Yehudit chief Itamar Ben Gvir arrive for the swearing-in ceremony for the new Knesset, at the parliament building in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

Ben Gvir’s appointment to head the Public Security Ministry reportedly includes an understanding that the ministry will have expanded power over the Israel Police, with changes to be made to a police order that governs the relationship.

The proposal was raised during negotiations between Likud and Otzma Yehudit, several sources familiar with the developments told the Haaretz daily. They said it will not be specifically mentioned in coalition agreements but rather covered by a more general clause granting powers to the public security minister.

Some senior former police officials have come out against the reported move, with the former chief of police in Jerusalem saying it could imperil Israeli democracy.

While negotiations are ongoing and appointments could still change, the framework reported by Channel 12 would remove some of the main obstacles that have prevented Netanyahu from putting together a working coalition government since his victory at the head of a bloc of right and religious parties in the November 1 elections.

Likud has declined to comment on the negotiations but said that some of the myriad reports were not true.

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