Netanyahu Hands Diaspora Affairs Portfolio to Minister Who Slammed U.S. Jews' 'Convenient Lives'

Netanyahu, who gave up ministerial posts over his corruption charges, also appoints party colleague who is expected to be indicted for bribery as agriculture minister

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaking at a Likud party gathering in 2017.
Meged Gozani

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the replacements for the ministerial positions he has given up over his criminal indictment on Sunday.

Tzipi Hotoveli, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party – who faced outrage from U.S. Jewish leaders when, as deputy foreign minister, she blamed the rift between the American Jewish community and Israel on the former's "convenient lives" – has been tapped as diaspora affairs minister.

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In the same 2017 interview, Hotovely also referred to American Jewish critics of Israeli policy as people "that never send their children to fight for their country" and said of Americans concerned about prayer spaces at the Western Wall that "most of the time those people are not even interested [in going] to the Kotel."

After Sunday's announcement, Hotovely said in a statement: "I thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for the appointment in which I will be fully committed to the government's policy that every Jew should feel at home in Israel. Accordingly, I will work to enhance the ties between Israel and all Jewish communities and denominations of Judaism around the world. I also look forward to working with them in the great task of battling the rising tide of global anti-Semitism."

David Bitan, also of Likud, who police recommended to be indicted for bribery last year, has been named agriculture minister. In March, police recommended that Bitan be tried for bribery in 12 different cases, in which contractors and businessmen allegedly funneled hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash to him.

Housing Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton – formerly a member of the Kulanu party, which was absorbed into Likud before November's election – is set to take up the labor, social affairs and social services portfolio, while Shas' Yitzhak Cohen will serve as the new housing minister.

Netanyahu formally stepped down from his ministerial posts earlier this month, as someone who has been indicted for a crime cannot serve as a minister. There is no such rule regarding the position of prime minister.