Cabinet Unanimously Approves Appointment of Lieberman as Defense Minister

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Netanyahu and Lieberman sign coalition deal, May 22, 2016.
Netanyahu and Lieberman sign coalition deal, May 22, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman

The cabinet unanimously approved Avigdor Lieberman's appointment as defense minister, as part of a deal between Yisrael Beiteinu and the Likud to expand the governing coalition.

The approval comes after a week-long conflict between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Naftali Bennett, who threatened to veto Lieberman's appointment if his demands for reform of the security cabinet were not addressed.

A proposal on security cabinet reform by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman was accepted by both Netanyahu and Bennett late Sunday night, effectively ending the crisis and paving the way for paving the way the cabinet's approval of Lieberman as defense minister. 

Litzman suggested that until a committee 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.

"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."

In addition to the appointment of Lieberman, Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu) took the post of immigrant absorption minister and Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) was appointed minister without portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office.

The ministerial appointments will go before the Knesset for final approval Monday afternoon.

The appointment of Yisrael Beiteinu ministers is part of Netanyahu's coalition expansion, which will bring the party into the government.

The prime minister said the new expanded coalition — increased to 66 from 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset — would improve political stability and help Israel “deal with the challenges in front of us, as well as the opportunities in front of us.”

President Reuven Rivlin expressed his support for the expansion of the coalition, calling the move to broaden the government "correct and justified."

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