Netanyahu Taps New Agriculture Minister 'To Bring Back Farmers' Votes'

Ministers Hanegbi and Akunis will take on second ministerial posts weeks before election

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Jerusalem September 2019
.Mark Israel Salam

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday the appointment of two new ministers in his caretaker government just weeks ahead of Israel's March 2 election.

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi will also serve as agriculture minister, and Science Minister Ofir Akunis will also serve as labor, social affairs and social services minister.

The ruling party said Hanegbi's appointment was meant to "bring back home to Likud the votes of farmers who did not vote Likud in the last election."

Science Minister Ofir Akunis in Jerusalem, October 2019
Ohad Zwigenberg

The Likud statement also confirms Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli's appointment as diaspora affairs minister, announced two weeks ago.

Netanyahu's previous nominee for agriculture minister, former coalition whip David Bitan, said last Friday he was forgoing the appointment.  Bitan, who is suspected of bribery, cited delays due to "different excuses until we reached a point that makes this an empty post."

The latest reshuffle comes after Netanyahu was forced to relinquish all his ministerial portfolios, following the indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust filed against him.

The law stipulates that an indicted politician cannot hold on to ministerial posts, but says nothing about the position of prime minister.