Gantz Resigns as Knesset Speaker Ahead of Swearing in of New Government

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Benny Gantz giving his first speech as Knesset speaker, March 26, 2020.
Benny Gantz giving his first speech as Knesset speaker, March 26, 2020. Credit: Adina Wollman/Knesset Spokesperson’s Office

Benny Gantz submitted his resignation as Knesset speaker ahead of the swearing in of the new government on Thursday.

Gantz's resignation as speaker will take 48 hours to go into effect and until then he can still rescind his decision. The Knesset bylaws strictly state that a lawmaker cannot be a minister and Knesset speaker simultaneously. Gantz is expected to be appointed as defense minister on Thursday when the government is sworn in.

According to the coalition deal, the post of Knesset speaker will pass to a Likud candidate, who is expected to hold the position for the length of the governments tenure, even after Gantz takes over as prime minister in October 2021.

The next Knesset speaker is expected to be Likud's Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin, who had submitted his resignation and been approved for the position by the Likud party.

Yuli Edelstein, who served as Knesset Speaker before Gantz for seven years, accepted Netanyahu's offer of serving as Health Minister on Tuesday.

On Monday, Netanyahu announced that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan will take on the post of Israel’s Ambassador to both the United States and the United Nations. Erdan reportedly accepted the offer because he realized many Likud lawmakers were vying for relatively few government portfolios in the new government

With Edelstein to serve as health minister and Erdan tapped as ambassador, the current battle in Likud seems to be over the public security portfolio. The contenders are Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Justice Minister Amir Ohana, with the scales apparently tipping toward the latter. Barring last-minute changes, Regev is apparently slated to head the Transportation Ministry. 

During a phone call Monday night, Netanyahu offered Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party the education and Jerusalem portfolios, a deputy ministerial post in charge of national civil service and settlements, both subjects close to the heart of the national religious public that are Yamina’s base. But Bennett held out for the ministries of transportation and health, which Netanyahu rejected.

In recent weeks Netanyahu’s adviser Natan Eshel has been encouraging him to create a “bundle” of ministries for Yamina, saying that once the rabbis of this group saw the funding and powers they would have, they would pressure Yamina’s Bezalel Smotrich, now transportation minister, and Rafi Peretz, now education minister, to enter the coalition even without Bennett and fellow Yamina head MK Ayelet Shaked. But for the moment Smotrich is holding fast to Bennett, who has said he is ready to go to the opposition. Peretz says he will not enter the government, but seems to be hoping for an offer to do so. 

As for Netanyahu’s senior coalition partner Kahol Lavan, last week its chairman, Benny Gantz, met with all of the party’s MKs to ask them what portfolios they wanted. On Wednesday and Thursday he is to announce his decisions. Six ministries have already been earmarked: defense will go to Gantz; foreign affairs to MK Gabi Ashkenazi; and justice to MK Avi Nissenkorn. The Labor Party will also have its share – the ministries of the economy, welfare and immigrant absorption are expected to go to MKs Amir Peretz, Itzik Shmuli and Pnina Tamano-Shata, respectively. 

Other ministries will apparently be distributed to the following Kahol Lavan MKs: Chili Troper – culture and sports; Michael Biton – minorities; Omer Yankelevich – social equality; and Alon Schuster – agriculture. MKs Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Yoaz Hendel both want the Communications Ministry. Three ministries – tourism, science and strategic affairs – are still open.

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