Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara to the position of communications minister on Sunday morning, as Tzachi Hanegbi's three-month temporary appointment came to an end.
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The government unanimously approved the appointment Sunday afternoon in a cabinet vote. Kara, who is Druze, is a member of Netanyahu's Likud party.
Netanyahu was expected to appoint Yariv Levin to the position in addition to his current position as tourism minister. Levin is one of the Netanyahu's closest government members and one of the only ministers he trusts.
Netanyahu was thought to appoint Hanegbi if not Levin, and the appointment of Miri Regev was not considered. Hanegbi said following Kara's appointment that he did not ask for the portfolio and that it was not offered to him.
Senior Likud officials were surprised about Kara's appointment. As recently as Friday, they expected Hanegbi - who has shown loyalty to Netanyahu - to be appointed if Levin rejected the portfolio.
Two police investigations are underway against Netanyahu – one over whether he improperly accepted expensive gifts from businesspeople, and one over whether he agreed to limit the circulation of the free daily Israel Hayom in return for better coverage from rival Yedioth Ahronoth. Netanyahu allegedly received expensive cigars and champagne from Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
At the beginining of the year, the High Court demanded Netanyahu explain why he did not resign or recuse himself from the Communications Ministry during the investigations.
Justice Ministry officials have said it is difficult to defend Netanyahu’s presence at the Communications Ministry for the time being, so a transfer of the portfolio was advisable.
Several months beforehand Netanyahu already authorized Hanegbi to make decisions concerning telecommunications company Bezeq after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit ruled that Netanyahu’s relationship with Bezeq’s main shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, disqualified him.