The New Israeli Government

The Israeli Government 25.03.13

by

Howard Adelman

First of all, Happy Easter or Hag Sameah, and have a great Passover seder if you are having one. My youngest son surprised us and returned from kayaking in Belize for Passover. Hence, my silence of the last few days! I was going to give the blog a rest for Passover but I find my mind is in too much agitation. My next few blogs will deal with the Israeli government and cabinet, Obama’s speech in Ramallah, the Netanyahu apology to Erdogan and how Obama’s plan to focus on tactics is beginning to work out.

THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT

The Size and Balance in the Cabinet

The Israeli government consists of the following members:

Likud:

  • Benjamin Netanyahu – Prime Minister (+ interim Foreign Minister)
  • Moshe Ya’alon – Defense Minister
  • Yisrael Katz – Transport, Infrastructure and Road Safety Minister
  • Yuval Steinitz – Int’l Relations, Intelligence, and Strategic Threats Minister
  • Silvan Shalom – Energy, Water, and Negev and Galilee Development Minister
  • Gilad Erdan – Home Front Defense and Communications Minister
  • Gideon Sa’ar– Interior Minister
  • Limor Livnat – Culture and Sports Minister
  • Zeev Elkin – Deputy Foreign minister
  • Danny Danon– Deputy Defense minister
  • Ofir Akunis* – Deputy Minister – liaison between government and the Knesset
  • Tzipi Hotovely– Deputy Transport Minister
  • Haim Katz – Chairman, Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee
  • Tzachi Hanegbi* – Chairman, Knesset House Committee
  • Miri Regev – Chair, Knesset Interior Committee
  • Yariv Levin – Coalition Chair
  • Yuli Edelstein – Knesset Speaker
  • Moshe Feiglin – Deputy Knesset Speaker

*After 18 months, Akunis switches with Hangbi and Hanegbi switches with Ofer Akunis)

Yisrael Beytenu:

– (Foreign Minster-in-Waiting)

  • Yitzhak Aharonovich – Public Security Minister
  • Yair Shamir – Agriculture Minister
  • Sofa Landver – Absorption Minister
  • Uzi Landau – Tourism Minister
  • Faina Kirshenbaum – Deputy Interior Minister
  • David Regev – Chairman, Knesset Law Committee
  • Orly Levy-Abekasis – Chair, Knesset Committee on Children’s Rights

Yesh Atid:

  • Yair Lapid – Finance Minister
  • Shai Piron – Education Minister
  • Yael German – Health Minister
  • Meir Cohen – Welfare Minister
  • Yaakov Peri – Science and Technology Minister
  • Micky Levy — Deputy Welfare Minister
  • Yoel Rozbozov – Chairman, Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee
  • Aliza Lavie – Chair, Knesset Committee on the Advancement of Women

HaBayit HaYehudi:

  • (Religious Affairs portfolio, and responsible for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs)

Uri Ariel – Housing Minister

Uri Orbach – Senior Citizens Minister

Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan – Deputy Religious Affairs Minister

Avi Wortzman – Deputy Education Minister

Nissan Slomiansky – Head of the Knesset Finance Committee

Hatnua:

  • Tzipi Livni – Justice Minister
  • Amir Peretz – Environmental Protection Minister
  • Amram Mitzna – Chairman, Knesset Education Committee

Of the five political parties in the government backed by 68 members of the Knesset, 43 are in the government. In addition to the Prime Minister, 21 are currently cabinet ministers. If Liberman wins in court and is restored to cabinet, there will be a total of 23.members in cabinet.

Parties Knesset #s Members

Cabinet

Ratio of Cabinet Government Posts Ratio of Government
Prime Minister 1

%

Actual Entitle Actual Entitle
Likud 20 29.4% 8 6 36.4% 18 13 41.9%
Yisrael Beytenu 11 16.1% 4 + 1 3 18.2%

(21.7%)

8 7 18.6%
Yesh Atid 19 27.9% 5 5 22.7% 8 12 18.6%
HaBayit HaYehudi 12 17.6% 3 3 13.6% 6 7 14.0%
Hatnua 6 8.8% 2 2 9.1% 3 4 7.0%
Total 68 98.8% 22 19 100% 43 43 100.1%

Excluding the Prime Minister, the entitlement column indicates how the posts should have been divided up if they were split roughly in accordance with Knesset seats won in the election and still giving the slight edge to the party that won the most seats. In other words, when Bibi pushed Lapid to get a cabinet of 21 instead of the 18 in addition to the Prime Minister, the figure Lapid had originally insisted upon – though they agreed upon 20 and somehow got 21 – Likud and Yisrael Baytenu got all 3 of the extra cabinet posts. Even more telling, if almost two-thirds of the members of the Knesset receive government posts, Likud received by far more of its share; Yisrael Beytenu also received more of its share. When Liberman enters the cabinet – assuming he does – Yisrael Beytenu will do even better. Netanyahu was able to give most of his 20 Knesset members posts in the government.

Naftali Bennet was about 1 post down and Tzipi Livni did ok. In contrast, Lapid’s Yesh Atid did the worst by far. Instead of at least 11 or 12 government posts, Yesh Atid only got 8. And Yesh Atid should have had at least one more of the cabinet posts.

Without even getting into the quality of the ministerial posts allocated, I read this as having the following significance:

1. Netanyahu and his Likud colleagues did a brilliant job in getting and keeping a disproportionate share of cabinet and government portfolios in Likud and Yisrael Beytenu hands.

2. This will mean that Likud should be able to keep its caucus in line, especially since the dissidents within Likud over the peace process and over the alliance with Yisrael Beytenu did not get re-elected since Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan already had lost out within the party to hardliners like Danny Danon, Miri Regev and Moshe Feiglin.

3. Avigdor Liberman, who did very well in negotiating the running list with Likud by first getting a ratio of 1 member of his party for every 2 Likud members, then securing 2 of the top 4 slots in the election list (Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Liberman, Gideon Sa’ar and Yair Shamir) and 15 instead of 13 or 14 of the top 40 candidates, got his full share of cabinet and government posts.

4. If you look at who did not get posts from the Likud/Yisrael Beytenu list, they include Reuben Rivlin, a very prominent Likudnik who has probably had his last hurrah as a politician and may be slotted to replace Peres as president when Peres leaves office. A former speaker and believer in a one state solution, he defended Balad MK Haneen Zoabi (he participated in the Gaza flotilla) from being kicked out of the Knesset and has made equality for Arab Israeli citizens a principle goal. However, at 73 he is unlikely to lead a revolt against Netanyahu but can be expected to remain very outspoken as he was when Sharon withdrew from Gaza.

5. The highest ranked Yisrael Beytenu member who did not get a post was David Rotem, a settler in Efrat and a former member of Mafdal who got his first seat in the Knesset as a replacement for Yuri Stern in 2007; I do not see him as a threat to Liberman’s leadership. Neither is Hamad Amar, a Druze member of Liberman’s party, but not quite high enough in the list to make it into government. So neither Netanyahu or Liberman can expect trouble from their respective caucuses.

6. Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party did very poorly in the negotiations to protect their interests, their relative strength in the cabinet and in ensuring the involvement and confidence of their backbenchers.

7. One might expect Lapid to be facing a very restless caucus, but I somewhat doubt it in the short term. Ofer Shelah was high up on the Yesh Atid list (#6) but did not make it into the government never mind the cabinet. Since on the surface he has written extensively on security issues as a journalist, lost one eye fighting for as a paratrooper in Lebanon in 1983 and is a personal friend of Lapid’s, one is initially surprised and puzzled. In an interview with Haaretz just before deciding to run on the Yesh Atid list, he was quoted as saying: "Therefore, when he decides to do something, then I, as a friend, am with him. He consults me frequently, because I’m his friend. And when there’s a concrete offer, then I’ll decide yes or no." As a columnist for Ma’ariv, when Ehud Olmert was trying to form a coalition in 2006 and there was a problem with the negotiations between Kadima and Labour over Shaul Mofaz who wanted the Finance Ministry that Labour coveted, Shelah had written an article on 28 April 2006 entitled "Coalition Talks Offer Few Slots for Old Soldiers", ironically in light of the current predicament in getting a place in government. The year before he had written a piece called, "Bitter Divisions Could Split Likud Party" (2 September 2005). Shelah has a record of being very sensitive to splits in parties over posts and is not inclined to be an obstacle. My surprise is that he did not push for a strong place on a security committee or as Tzipi Livni’s deputy on the peace negotiations since he has been so sceptical about Netanyahu’s willingness to press this issue and had predicted that nothing would happen unless Obama forced Netanyahu to the table and squeezed compromise from him. However, I believe Shelah is a loyal friend, and, in any case, is a widower with two children. Between his loyalty, his family responsibilities, his sensitivity to schisms, and his continuing need to earn income from his sports journalism, one can expect quiet on that front.

8. Another source of potential activist schism within Yesh Atid could come from Adi Kol, a young (37 years) and very attractive legal scholar (PhD in law from Columbia University) and activist – founder of the University of the People that organizes Tel Aviv University students to offer free university education. Given that the ones who did get posts were either much more prominent (Rabbi Shai Piron, director of the Movement for the Advancement of Education in Israel) or seasoned local politicians (Yael German, the mayor of Herzliya, Meir Cohen, the Dimona mayor and Yoel Razvozov, a Netanya city council member) or very experienced in security (Yaakov Peri, former head of Shin Bet 1988-1994 whom you saw in The Gatekeepers) and Aliza Lavie, like Adi Kol, an Orthodox but fifteen years older, feminist, scholar – a senior lecturer in communications and multiculturalism at Bar Ilan University – and public intellectual who wrote the best-selling National Jewish Book Award volume, A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book, one should not expect Kol to pose a problem for Lapid.

Given stable caucuses in each of the parties, the stability of the government will depend on the wisdom of its leadership. Lapid’s party makes up 28% of the very enlightened centrist representation along with Hatnua’s 9%, but they are immersed in an otherwise overwhelmingly right wing government. The next real question is to look at the sub-cabinet structure and the occupants of each of the ministries.

I will save that for my next blog.

Israeli Government.2013.doc

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