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Strategic affairs minister says he’s examining shuttering his own ministry

Weeks after taking up post, Blue and White’s Michael Biton adopts position of ministry’s resigning director-general who says it should be merged with other government offices

Blue and White MK and former Yeruham mayor Michael Biton, in the Knesset on April 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Blue and White lawmaker Michael Biton at the Knesset on April 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton said Wednesday he was exploring shuttering his ministry and folding it into other government offices.

Mere weeks after taking the post, Biton said he’d decided to adopt the position of the ministry’s director-general Ronen Manelis, who announced his resignation Wednesday, “to implement an orderly process that will lead to the merging of the ministry with other government ministries and executive bodies.”

“I’m considering the various possibilities for implementing his recommendation,” tweeted Biton, a member of the Blue and White party who took charge of the ministry on November 30.

Any move to close down the ministry would require government approval.

The Ministry of Strategic Affairs was formed in 2006 for Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman and shuttered two years later, but was revived in 2009 for then-Likud minister Moshe Ya’alon. In 2015, the ministry was tasked by the government with leading efforts to counter the boycott campaign against Israel and the delegitimization of the Jewish state. That has been its focus ever since.

It was manned by Gilad Erdan in 2015-2020. Erdan departed to become Israel’s ambassador to the UN earlier this year with the formation of the new government, while Blue and White’s Orit Farkash-Hacohen became minister. Farkash-Hacohen left after six months to become tourism minister, leaving the job to Biton.

Manelis, a former IDF spokesman, was only appointed director-general of the ministry in June.

Then IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis speaks at Channel 12’s Leaders Conference in Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

In his resignation letter Tuesday, Manelis said he was stepping down because “in the existing framework I cannot execute my responsibilities as I interpret them.” He lamented that though Biton and Farkash-Hacohen had backed his proposal for reforming the ministry’s work, “the objective conditions that were created” prevented the move from being implemented.

Biton also currently serves as minister for civil and social affairs in the Defense Ministry.

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