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Yaakov Litzman to be appointed housing minister — again

United Torah Judaism’s spiritual leader had put kibosh on his return to government, but apparently relented after Shas replacement resigned last week

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed Monday to reappoint United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman as housing minister, some two months after he resigned from the position, Hebrew media reported.

The appointment is likely to be approved by the cabinet next week.

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.

Litzman — the former health minister — had long threatened to resign if the lockdown plan was approved, and had also said his ultra-Orthodox UTJ party could bolt the coalition. He did quit, on September 13, but his party did not.

The resignation was met with speculation that he was preempting a possible indictment against him, which would force him to resign as minister.

Litzman is suspected of fraud and breach of trust for using his office to illicitly provide assistance to alleged serial sex abuser Malka Leifer, as well as on a separate bribery charge for allegedly helping to prevent the closure of a food business that his own ministry had deemed unsanitary. The attorney general has yet to announce whether he will press charges.

Last month, it was reported that Litzman would not return to the cabinet due to opposition from his rabbi. His about-face came after Yitzhak Cohen of the fellow ultra-Orthodox Shas party resigned from the post of housing minister last week, less than a month after his appointment, saying he cannot run the ministry and carry out his duties as a deputy minister in the Treasury at the same time.

The appointment had been intended as largely symbolic, with Litzman reportedly meant to run the ministry in practice, while technically serving as deputy minister. Several Hebrew media reports said that Cohen’s resignation came out of frustration with effectively serving as Litzman’s puppet.

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