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With Litzman back in government, Shas’s Cohen resigns as minister in Treasury

Gantz had refused to approve MK remaining full minister without approval of his own demands, including passage of budget and series of senior appointments

Shas Member of the Knesset Yitzhak Cohen attends a faction meeting at the home of the Torah Sages Council president, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, in Jerusalem, on October 31, 2016 (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)
Shas Member of the Knesset Yitzhak Cohen attends a faction meeting at the home of the Torah Sages Council president, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, in Jerusalem, on October 31, 2016 (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)

The Shas party’s Yitzhak Cohen resigned from his role as a minister in the Finance Ministry (not to be confused with the role of finance minister, held by Israel Katz of Likud) on Tuesday, a day after United Torah Judaism party leader Yaakov Litzman rejoined the government and became housing minister instead of Cohen.

Shas reportedly fumed at Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for not allowing Cohen to retain his role in the Finance Ministry.

Shas claimed that Gantz initially agreed for Cohen to keep his post as minister in the Finance Ministry, which would have required a change in the coalition agreement Gantz signed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow for 37 ministers rather than the current 36 (already the largest government in Israel’s history).

But according to Hebrew media reports, Gantz changed his mind following criticism within Blue and White that he was approving requests by allies of Netanyahu, while the premier continued to reject his own demands to make a series of senior appointments, including a director-general for the Justice Ministry, as well as pass the state budget for 2021.

Gantz was said to have then conditioned his approval of Cohen on a parallel approval of his own demands. Not wanting to become a pawn in the battle between Netanyahu and Gantz, Cohen resolved the matter by resigning.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is also the alternate prime minister, visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Cohen was previously serving as a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry. When Litzman quit the government earlier this year in what he said was a protest of the government’s decision to impose a general lockdown during the High Holiday period, Cohen was appointed both Housing Minister, the post that Litzman had held, and minister without portfolio in the Finance Ministry.

The appointment had been intended as largely symbolic: Litzman was expected to return to the Housing Ministry as deputy minister, while serving as its de facto leader. Cohen, who wanted to continue working in the Finance Ministry, was therefore promoted to being a full minister there as well.

But Litzman’s return was delayed amid rumors he would not be returning, and last week Cohen resigned as housing minister, reportedly frustrated at being unable to properly carry out his duties.

Litzman was brought back as full minister on Monday, despite previously vowing he would never be a minister again.

Cohen is expected to return very soon to the Finance Ministry, once again serving as deputy minister.

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