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Elections 2022

Shaked, Sa’ar may move jobs in reshuffle; Blue and White, New Hope in talks – report

Gantz, Lapid both said courting ex-IDF chief Eizenkot for spot on slate ahead of elections; United Torah Judaism’s Gafni calls new PM; Liberman says he could be premier

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked (L) speaks with New Hope head Gideon Sa'ar at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked (L) speaks with New Hope head Gideon Sa'ar at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

With Yair Lapid taking the post of prime minister as the country heads to elections, the interim cabinet is considering a reshuffle of certain portfolios, according to a Friday report.

Channel 13 news said Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar could move to the Foreign Ministry (taking over from Lapid) and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked could take Sa’ar’s Justice Ministry.

The potential switch would mean the ministers were following the agreement in the original coalition deal made last year, assuming the roles that they were due to take in August 2023 once Lapid and Naftali Bennett rotated the premiership.

However, if Sa’ar and Shaked were to take the roles, they will only be able to fill them in an interim capacity — meaning three months at the most — as they would need Knesset approval to be named permanent ministers, and are unlikely to get it now that the coalition is in the minority.

Bennett — who announced on Wednesday that he will not run in the next election — is set to remain in the government as alternate prime minister. He will also continue to hold responsibility for the country’s Iran policy.

The Channel 13 report also said serious talks are taking place between Sa’ar and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on merging their New Hope and Blue and White parties ahead of the election, as an alliance between them is seen as potentially strengthening both slates.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Justice Minister Gideon Saar at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

It also noted former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot is being heavily courted by both Blue and White and Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and is seen as a potential major catch for either party due to his high public profile and general popularity.

According to the network, both parties believe Eizenkot has the ability to bring in voters both from the left and the right.

Eisenkot, who was the IDF chief of staff from 2015 to 2019, now works for a number of think tanks.

The retired general was one of the most coveted figures during the March 2021 election cycle, with his name then linked in reports to a number of parties. But Eisenkot eventually decided not to run.

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks during a conference at the Reichman University in Herzliya, May 17, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Meanwhile, the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party Moshe Gafni called Lapid on Friday to wish him luck, hours after the latter became prime minister at the stroke of midnight between Thursday and Friday, taking office as the 14th premier in Israel’s history.

According to Channel 12 news, both sides said the conversation went well.

Ultra-Orthodox parties have long reviled Lapid and his Yesh Atid party, which has touted secularist policies and opposed ongoing ultra-Orthodox control on many levers of power.

However, Gafni has softened his stance in recent years and last year refused to rule out sitting in a coalition with Lapid.

MK Moshe Gafni attends a finance committee meeting, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said Friday that he could see himself as prime minister in the future after Bennett showed that it could be done without the need to win a large number of seats.

“Bennett has broken conventions, I see myself as a candidate for prime minister. If I once thought that at least 20 seats needed to be won [to assume the premiership], then Bennett proved the opposite and right now everything is possible,” Liberman said in an interview with Channel 12, apparently ignoring the coalition’s lack of stability or longevity.

“I think I am no less [capable of becoming prime minister] in terms of seniority, ability, execution and knowledge,” he said, adding that there was a chance he would cooperate with the Likud party, but only if it were led by someone other than Benjamin Netanyahu.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Sunday, Lapid is to convene the first weekly cabinet meeting of his premiership.

However, his term leading the country could be a fairly short one, as he takes over a caretaker government ahead of national elections on November 1.

Yair Lapid seen in the Knesset on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

But the new prime minister appears determined to make the most of the potentially brief tenure, and bolster his prospects of winning a full term in four months’ time.

Only entering politics a decade ago, the centrist former TV anchor is the first non-right-wing prime minister since Ehud Barak left office in 2001, and one of the few without significant military experience.

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