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Prime minister taps Akunis as science minister in cabinet reshuffle

Danny Danon approved for UN ambassador post, giving up seat to minister without portfolio and paving way for Knesset to gain record 30th female member

Ofir Akunis (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Shay Hayak/Wikipedia)
Ofir Akunis (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Shay Hayak/Wikipedia)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday nominated Likud minister without portfolio Ofir Akunis to replace Danny Danon as science, technology and space minister.

Danon was tapped earlier this month to become Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, and was approved by the cabinet Thursday.

Since the formation of the government in April, Akunis has served as a minister without portfolio at the Communications Ministry, while Netanyahu has held the communications minister position.

Akunis will also take over as head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Akunis’s appointment will be brought before the cabinet for approval on Monday, and before the Knesset the following Wednesday.

“I thank the prime minister for the trust,” Akunis said in a statement after the announcement. “I am proud to stand at the head of a ministry which is the engine driving Israeli industry.

Sharren Haskel (Facebook)
Sharren Haskel (Facebook)

“The amazing Israeli achievements and breakthroughs in science and technology have turned into a byword worldwide and the challenge standing before me is to continue to advance and encourage Israeli technological innovation and prevent brain drain abroad.”

The announcement came minutes after the cabinet approved Danon on Thursday to be dispatched to New York as Israel’s envoy to the UN.

“I will represent our country with pride, from a sense of mission and national responsibility,” Danon said in a statement.

Danny Danon (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Danny Danon (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Danon congratulated Sharren Haskel, who will replace the outgoing lawmaker in the Knesset. Once sworn in, Haskel will become the 30th female lawmaker in the Israeli parliament, the most ever.

The cabinet will also likely gain another member, as United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman was given the go-ahead from a panel of rabbis to become a full minister Thursday.

Litzman has served as deputy health minister, though in effect with the authority of a full minister, as part of a long-standing position from the ultra-Orthodox party not to fully participate in the government. However earlier this week, a judge ruled that Litzman must either take on a full ministership or hand the job to somebody else.

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