Netanyahu, Bennett Reach Agreement; Cabinet to Vote on Lieberman Appointment

The two arrive a compromise on reforming the security cabinet, averting a crisis and paving the way for approval of Lieberman as defense minister Monday.

In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, file photo, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman greet their supporters in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Ariel Schalit, AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted a proposal from Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) Sunday night, effectively ending a crisis between the prime minister and Habayit Hayehudi chair Naftali Bennett over the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister.

With the end of the political upheaval that put Lieberman's appointment in jeopardy, the cabinet is expected to meet Monday morning to vote on the issue. Pending the Knesset's approval, Lieberman is due to be sworn into the position in the afternoon.

"Starting from tomorrow morning, Israel's cabinet will no long be without a secretary to brief the ministers," said Bennett upon Netanyahu's agreement to Litzman's plan. "This agreement could have been reached a week ago, but it's good it happened now."

Bennett began putting pressure on Netanyahu last week, threatening to oppose Lieberman's appointment if changes were not made to the way the security cabinet works. 

Litzman stepped in the ring Sunday, suggesting that until the committee — named by Netanyahu and headed by former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror — submitted its recommendations for reforming the security cabinet, acting National Security Council chairman Yaakov Nagel or one of his deputies should serve as “security cabinet secretary,” responsible for briefing the ministers on defense and diplomatic developments.

This, in effect, constitutes a compromise between the two parties, temporarily meeting Bennett's demand to install a secretary into the cabinet, while allowing Netanyahu's committee to complete their work. 

Bennett said that when Litzman approached him with the idea, he agreed. But, he said, when Litzman brought the proposal to Netanyahu's attention, the prime minister initially refused. Confirmation of Netanyahu's acceptance came later in the evening.

The cabinet’s approval of Lieberman as defense minister was originally postponed on Sunday after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced that he opposed a planned informal vote by phone on the appointment, saying that the appointment was too important.