Yair Lapid Begs Rival to Keep Cabinet at 18 Members

In doing so, the Yesh Atid leader hopes new Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon stands firm and saves the country hundreds of millions of shekels.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
Ofer Vaknin

Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid has called on Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon to prevent the expansion of the cabinet beyond the 18 ministers now permitted by law.

Kahlon, whose party made a respectable fifth-place showing in this month’s election, is set to become the next finance minister

Lapid, the driving force behind the 18-minister law in the last Knesset, made the call to Kahlon on his Facebook page. “If you really want to achieve change, you must stand firm against any attempt to expand the cabinet beyond 18 ministers,” Lapid wrote.

“They’ll tell you, ‘leave it alone, it’s only a few tens of millions of shekels,’ but as your predecessor [as finance minister] I tell you this is a boldfaced lie. It’s hundreds of millions, which you’ll need to help the handicapped and the elderly, and to promote the reforms you believe in.”

Lapid said the purpose of increasing the number of ministers was to make coalition-building easier, but that “both you and I know they’re also testing you. They want to see how you stand up to them.”

Tomer Appelbaum

Sources in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud say there may be no choice but to have 22 or 24 ministers.

Shas leader Arye Dery and Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman are said to oppose increasing the cabinet’s size, even if this limits their parties’ representation in the cabinet.

Based on the election results, Likud will receive 10 portfolios, Kulanu three and Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi three. But at 18 ministers, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu will only get one minister each.

Still, Likud wants at least 13 ministries and wants Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas to have two ministries each.

“There will be no choice but to increase the number of ministers,” a Likud source said. He added that if Lieberman and Dery are the only members of their parties in the cabinet, they won’t have enough ministers to sit on the various committees, “especially the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which basically decides which laws will pass and which will be buried.”

The new coalition is expected to work toward reversing another reform passed by Yesh Atid in the last Knesset – criminal sanctions for draft-dodgers. In exchange, the ultra-Orthodox parties would agree to join the coalition.