Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tapped an ally to lead the foreign ministry after a petition to the High Court argued it was impossible for him to juggle posts of PM, health, defense and foreign minister at once.
With less than two months left before the Israeli general election, Netanyahu relinquished his duties as the country’s foreign minister, which he assumed in 2015, after a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government, a non-government organization, to the High Court questioned his ability to handle the responsibility arising from his numerous ministerial posts.
The petition was launched back in December, when Netanyahu, who has been serving as the Israeli Prime Minister since 2009, still held four ministerial portfolios in addition to being the head of state.
Facing a potential legal challenge ahead of the crucial elections on April 9, Netanyahu stepped down as an immigration and absorption minister in December, appointing the minister of tourism, Yariv Levin, to the post.
Netanyahu pledged to get rid of the foreign minister’s portfolio in January, but was reluctant to deliver. Lagging behind on his promise for over a month, Netanyahu eventually announced on Thursday he would give up the post by the end of the week.
The Movement for Quality Government welcomed Netanyahu’s move to shelve some of his ministerial burden, but said that it was long overdue.
“We welcome the apparent appointment that came only under the sword of the Supreme Court, and we hope that it will be implemented,” the group said at the time.
It slammed the situation with Netanyahu amassing ministerial powers “inappropriate,” adding that they hope “this unacceptable situation will not happen again.”
During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu appointed intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz (who himself now holds three ministerial posts, being also the minister of transportation), to act as the foreign minister. Netanyahu does not need the Knesset’s approval, as Katz can serve as an acting minister for up to three months.
Katz has been touted as a rival to Netanyahu’s leadership in his right-wing Likud party. The freshly-appointed foreign minister came in second in the party’s primaries in January, landing the third top spot in Likud’s parliamentary list, behind Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
After being appointed as Israel’s top diplomat, Katz said that he would promote Israeli’s foreign policy “together with the prime minister” leading it to “further achievements.”
“This is an exciting moment for me,” Katz tweeted of his appointment.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is carrying on with his duties as Israel’s acting defense minister and the formal head of the country’s healthcare.
The Israeli PM took over the defense ministry in November last year after the resignation of his hawkish ally Avigdor Lieberman, from Yisrael Beiteinu right-wing nationalist party. At the time, Netanyahu justified the addition of another portfolio to his already vast collection by saying that Israel was in “the midst of a military campaign.”
Earlier this month, the Israeli Attorney General accused Netanyahu of exploiting his position as acting defense chief to drum up support for himself and his party and barred him from using photos of his trips to IDF bases for election purposes 90 days ahead of the vote.
Netanyahu has also been heading Israel’s health ministry since November 2017, although he is not responsible for day-to-day operations.
Netanyahu has certainly never shied away from pulling extra governmental work, dabbling in various fields during his latest two tenures as prime minister. During his third term (2009-2013), he led the Ministry of Economic Strategy, the Ministry for Senior Citizens, now rebranded as the Ministry for Social Equality, and had a brief stint at the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. Since the beginning of his fourth term, Netanyahu has run the Ministry of Communications (2014-2017), the Regional Development Ministry (2015-2016) and the Ministry of Economy (2015-2016).
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!