Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered Communications Minister Gilad Erdan the position of interior minister to replace Gideon Sa’ar, the up-and-coming Likudik who announced a “time-out” from politics last week. Erdan has asked for a few days to consider whether to accept; he has already been offered the post of Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Sources say he is likely to accept the Interior Ministry portfolio, which would boost him politically because of the dozens of mayors who are Likud members.
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Netanyahu apparently turned quickly to Erdan to avoid the embarrassment of losing two senior Likud ministers in a short period of time. If Erdan chooses the ambassadorship, Netanyahu is expected to offer the Interior Ministry to a close associate, Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
The front-runner to take Erdan’s place as communications minister is MK Gila Gamliel (Likud), to whom Netanyahu had promised a ministry as soon as one became available.
The coalition chairman, MK Yariv Levin (Likud), has received a similar promise from Netanyahu, but he is expected to be appointed head of the Knesset’s prestigious Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to replace the current chairman, MK Zeev Elkin (Likud).
Erdan is a member of the security cabinet, and if he accepts the Interior Ministry post, he will remain in that forum, even though Sa’ar was not a member.
The proposal to Erdan just 24 hours after Sa’ar announced his departure was made as part of Netanyahu’s efforts to stabilize his squabbling coalition. More evidence of such efforts can be seen in the compromise with Finance Minister Yair Lapid on the state budget and approval of Yesh Atid’s flagship legislation, zero VAT for certain home buyers.
Political sources say Netanyahu is trying to bring Lapid closer because a new election is not in the interest of either of them. But Sa’ar and Netanyahu had grown apart.
“I can’t deny that relations are not what they were in the past,” Sa’ar told Channel 2 on Friday, referring to him and the prime minister. “If I could mark a point, it would be during, and even before, the presidential election — the issue of postponing the election.”
As for the possibility that Sa’ar would join a party led by former Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, he said: “I’m a Likud man. Kahlon is my friend; we’ve had many conversations in which I’ve always stated my opinion that it’s better to return to Likud and be in Likud. I’m not a candidate to leave Likud.”
He added: “I’m still young, and if after I do a few things on the outside, if I miss [politics] and the public still wants it, I might come back.”
When asked if he saw himself as a candidate for prime minister, Sa’ar said that if he returns to politics, “then of course a person who has reached the position I did aspires to reach the top.”
When asked if he was disappointed that Netanyahu had not asked him to reconsider his resignation, Sa’ar said: “When there are no expectations, there are no disappointments.”
Sa’ar added that he was taking a break from political life after 20 years during which “I’ve made most of my dreams come true.” He said the move had nothing to do with his wife, the journalist Geula Even, and that he had received a number of offers in law and business.