Netanyahu Taps Loyalist David Amsalem as Communications Minister

Ex-coalition whip Amsalem will replace Ayoub Kara, who resigned last week after it was revealed that he auditioned for a reality TV show while serving as minister

David Amsalem (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu, January 8, 2018
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that he has tapped Likud lawmaker David Amsalem as interim communications minister. 

Amsalem, who served as coalition whip in the previous government, is considered a Netanyahu loyalist and has said in the past that he would vote to give the premier immunity if he is indicted in the corruption cases he is embroiled in. 

Amsalem will replace Israeli Druze politican Ayoub Kara, who resigned from the post last week after it was revealed that he auditioned for a reality television show during his tenure as minister. 

"Since being appointed as communications minister, a systematic smear campaign was launched against me that stems from prejudice," Kara, who is Druze, wrote in the resignation letter that he submitted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Sunday, Channel 13 reported that Kara auditioned for the VIP version of "Survivor" while serving as communications minister, and is considering competing in the program. Kara did not announce his intentions nor did he disqualify himself from handling possible conflicts of interest regarding the television market and the show's broadcaster, Reshet.

"I experienced criticism from both inside and outside [the party] that culminated in Likud's top officials working together to weaken me and remove me from the party's spheres of influence," the letter read.

Kara was appointed communications minister in May 2017. He has continued to serve as minister in the interim government although he is not a member of Knesset, having been pushed down to a slot on Likud's slate with a low likelihood of making it into the Knesset. He rarely went to the ministry's office in recent months.

After Kara's resignation, Netanyahu kept the portfolio for himself, but political sources assessed that he could not retain it due to legal difficulties. When he established his previous government, Netanyahu held onto the communications portfolio, and is suspected of taking advantage of his position as communications minister to give benefits to Bezeq shareholder Shaul Elvoitch. In return, Elovitch is accused of giving Netanyahu favorable coverage on the Israeli news website Walla, which he owns. Netanyahu and Elovitch are expected to be charged with bribery pending a hearing

After the ties between Netanyahu and Elovitch were revealed by Haaretz, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit ruled that the prime minister cannot handle any affairs related to Elovitch or matters that could influence the company he owns.

After the High Court received a petition calling on Netanyahu to pass on the portfolio to someone else, he appointed Tzachi Hanegbi as interim communications minister. After three months, he appointed Kara indefinitely. Kara has said in recent days that he feels that Netanyahu changed his attitude toward him following decisions Kara made as minister.