Israel Cancels Limit on Ministers as Netanyahu Tries to Form New Government

Prime minister hopes party leaders would let go of lofty demands 'so that we can build a strong and stable government together'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a government meeting, May 19, 2019.
Emil Salman

The Israeli government approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request Sunday to remove the limit on the number of ministers the premier is allowed to appoint, after Netanyahu requested to raise the number in order to ease his coalition-building process, 10 days before the government's deadline.

The ministers agreed to pass a bill that would cancel the current limits on the number of ministers, which currently stands at 19, and deputy ministers, which stands at four. The Knesset is expected to vote on it next week.

According to the memorandum, Netanyahu requested to raise the number of ministers to ensure "governmental stability" in the coalition-building process.

He expressed frustration that the parties are still clinging to lofty demands, adding he hopes they show some latitude "so that we can build a strong and stable government together for the State of Israel that will continue to bring the state to new achievements."

>> Read more: Netanyahu and Lieberman are in a standoff over Gaza | Analysis ■ Likud can draw a line against Netanyahu | Opinion

This is not the first time Netanyahu expanded the number of ministers in government. In his last term, a similar measure was adopted, carried out as a temporary order. At the time, however, it was four days after Netanyahu informed the president that he could form a government, and after most of the coalitional agreements were already signed.

On Friday, Netanyahu's Likud party said that a proposed amendment to the law governing legislators’ immunity from prosecution will not be included in the coalition agreements. The exclusion of the issue would not bar Likud from advancing the legislation.

Likud seeks to restore automatic immunity from prosecution for legislators, which until a 2005 amendment was passed, could be revoked by the Knesset. Under the previous version of the law, which Likud hopes to reinstate, the attorney general could argue the case for rescinding an MK’s immunity before the House Committee, which had the authority to accept or reject the request.

The amendment could help not only Netanyahu but also additional coalition members who face possible prosecution on corruption charges, including Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, Interior Minister Arye Dery and former coalition whip MK David Bitan.