Knesset Votes to Expand Cabinet, Paving Way for Netanyahu to Swear in Coalition

Netanyahu now meeing with Likud MKs one by one to discuss the distribution of ministerial positions.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 6, 2015.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 6, 2015.Credit: AFP

The Knesset plenum voted on Wednesday in favor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to amend clause in the Basic Law and increase the number of ministers in the cabinet, paving the way for his plan to swear in the new coalition by the end of this week or early next week.

The proposal passed as expected with a vote of 61-59. Immediately after the vote, Netanyahu began meeting the Likud MKs one by one, to discuss the distribution of ministerial positions.

The amendment, which passed its first reading on Monday, needed an approval of at least 61 Knesset members to pass - which meant all of the coalition’s 61 MKs had to vote in favor.

The amendment to the law means that Netanyahu will now be able to expand the coalition beyond the 18 ministers it was previously capped at, and will allow for the appointments of ministers without portfolio, as well. Since the new government was slated to have more than 18 ministers, it could not be sworn in until the repeal had passed.

Fifteen MKs are currently vying for the 12 ministerial positions designated for the Likud. Senior officials in the Likud have said that they are not concerned that the MKs not chosen as ministers will try to sabotage the fragile coalition.

"No Likud MK will try to topple the government because of a position he hasn't received," a senior Likud official said. "They will obviously be disappointed, but Netanyahu has the right tools to compensate them. He can also give them the title of deputy prime minister. or deputy minister without appointing a minister above them."

The position of ambassador to the United Nations, which will be opening up within the next few months, could also be an option for those senior MKs not tapped to a ministerial position – still, no few of these Likud MKs have already clarified that they are not interested in that post at this time.

Between nine and 11 of the Likud MKs are considered sure to receive a ministerial position: Moshe Ya'alon will remain defense minister and Yisrael Katz will continue on as transportation minister. Gilad Erdan, Yuval Steinitz and Silvan Shalom are interested in the interior ministry – and Erdan has also asked for the public security ministry.

Likud officials believe that Shalom will be appointed energy minister in the end, and that Steinitz will remain intelligence and strategic affairs minister – but neither of those slots are official. Benny Begin, who has been promised a ministerial position, is also a possibility for intelligence minister and has a chance for a seat in the cabinet.

Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levine are also considered sure candidates for ministers. Elkin is expected to get the absorption ministry and to be tapped cabinet liaison to the Knesset, and Levin is a candidate for the tourism ministry of the culture ministry.
Gila Gamliel and Miri Regev are expected to tapped ministers as well, and Tzipi Hotovely is a possible candidate too.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Danny Danon and Ofir Akunis are the last on the list, though MK Ayoub Kara has also been named as a potential candidate.

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