The finance minister holds the key
Netanyahu could keep finance for himself, at least for the first few months of his term when he will need to push through the state budgets for 2009 and for 2010.
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who was finance minister from 2003-2005, knows the importance of the position, but unfortunately does not believe anyone in his party has the command of economics that the post demands. MK Gideon Saar is on his very short list of possible candidates, but Netanyahu is hesitant to entrust the complex position to someone so young and so lacking in cabinet experience.
This means that Netanyahu could keep finance for himself, at least for the first few months of his term when he will need to push through the state budgets for 2009 and for 2010. The former must be passed within 45 days of the government's formation, or new elections will have to be called.
Netanyahu could appoint Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman to finance, but the latter is lacking in economic experience, his previous ministerial experience is brief and he and Netanyahu are thought to have personal issues that will make close cooperation difficult.
A strong contender for the post from outside politics is Aharon Fogel, who is chairman of Migdal Insurance Group, Ness Technologies and the Bank of Israel's advisory committee. He knows all the top treasury officials and is a close friend of Netanyahu's.
The next finance minister will face major challenges that include a NIS 50 billion hole in state coffers (out of a total annual budget of about NIS 310 billion), deflationary worries, zero growth, growing unemployment and the credit squeeze.