To found the State of Israel in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues made do with 13 cabinet ministers. Prior to this election, Yair Lapid announced that his Yesh Atid party would only join the government if it had no more than 18 ministers. That he now seems set to capitulate on this issue raises concern: He has learned too quickly to be too flexible.
But the question of how many portfolios there are is less important than their quality. On this issue, Lapid must not fail. If he aspires to influence the country, he must insist on receiving the ministries with the greatest influence over the lives of Israel's citizens. These are not necessarily the portfolios that are considered most "senior" - defense, foreign affairs and finance.
The essential policies for which Lapid must fight are in the realm of the justice and interior portfolios. The current justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, has proven over the last four years that he is not fit to occupy this office. His attempt to oust the Israel Bar Association's representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee by retroactively canceling the Bar's election attested to the unacceptable motivations that drive him, as did his declared wish that "the law of the Torah should be binding on the State of Israel, and the appropriate way to achieve this is step by step." Chairmanship of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee should also be one of Lapid's nonnegotiable goals.
Another portfolio - of unparalleled importance - that is vitally important to wrest from the party (Shas ) and person that currently control it is that of the interior. Eli Yishai's performance as interior minister was embarrassing. He incited, banished, and sowed hatred and fear against African migrants, homosexuals and all other minorities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have expelled Yishai from his cabinet. But given the leadership vacuum, we can only hope that the coalition negotiations will compel Netanyahu to move in this direction.
The next interior minister will have to work to eliminate all the barriers that embitter the lives of Israel's citizens, and also to make life easier for those who seek to become Israeli citizens. In addition, he will have to tighten oversight of the local authorities.
If these positions are indeed wrested from Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas, the chances of light appearing over the civic horizon will be bolstered.
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