Netanyahu’s Fourth Cabinet

Prime Minister Netanyahu will work to sign coalition agreements with Kulanu, Bayit Yehudi, Shas, UTJ and Yisrael Beitenu over the next few weeks. Judging by his previous three governments Netanyahu will save the Likud ministry appointments for last. It will be a tough race since everyone is looking for a promotion following Likud’s jump from 18 Knesset seats to 30. The Prime Minister was re-elected with 15 MKs from the previous Likud list, and 3 MKs are returning vets who are all looking for top jobs. The race for the Likud ministerial slots will be intense if after signing coalition deals with five other parties the next government indeed is limited to 18 ministers as the current law mandates. Netanyahu has in the past ignored the Likud primary results and created his own formula for appointing Likud members to his cabinet.

The Likud minister candidates can be divided into four groups: The current ministers, the veterans returning from hiatus, the veterans who were not on hiatus, and the class of 2009.

Prime Minister Netanyahu was able to reduce the large number of Likud veterans seeking a portfolio by one with the reconfirmation of Speaker Edelstein on the first day of the Knesset session. The five current Likud Ministers view themselves as candidates for a promotion to top portfolios. Defense Minister Yaalon expects to keep his position despite Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beitenu’s Avigdor Liberman’s demands. Likud’s new #2, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, who was Likud’s #3 in the previous two Netanyahu governments, is looking for a promotion, and there are only a handful of portfolios that would accomplish that such as Foreign Affairs or Justice. The other three Likud Ministers – Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom are also looking for promotions. Shalom will most likely become the only cabinet member to serve in all four Netanyahu governments.

Three veteran MKs who are now back in Knesset after a hiatus are expecting to be added to the cabinet table before other Likud MKs are considered for promotion. Although they have had their share of disagreements, Former Minister Benny Begin, who was first elected to Knesset in 1988, was brought out of retirement twice by Netanyahu and served as a Minister in Netanyahu’s first and second governments. Former Kadima Minister and security figure Avi Dichter is also expecting a ministry despite placing 26th on the Likud’s list. Another back bencher #24, former Deputy Minister and Druze MK Ayoub Kara, who was first elected to Knesset in 1999, is expecting a ministry because he is the only non-Jewish candidate vying for a cabinet position.

The next three ministerial candidates include three veteran MKs who have not taken a hiatus and played active roles in Netanyahu’s previous governments. They expect Netanyahu to follow his previous behavior of favoring seniority over the Likud primary results. Former Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, also a member of the 1988 class that included Netanyahu and Begin, is one of just four current Likud MKs to have served in Netanyahu’s first cabinet (the others are Begin, Shalom and Edelstein, then of the Yisrael B’Aliyah party). Former Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel, the only current Likud member of the 2003 class that is not a minister, expects to be appointed as the senior female Likud member. Committee Chairman Chaim Katz who has been passed up many times for a portfolio since he was first elected to Knesset in 1999 is expecting to finally join the cabinet.

That leaves six right-wing members of the Likud 2009 class: Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin, Ofir Akunis, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovelly and Miri Regev. All of them expect to be ministers. Some of them have scored very high in the last two Likud primaries and others expect to be rewarded for performing the more difficult tasks of Netanyahu’s second and third governments. Judging by Netanyahu’s previous preferences his next government might not include these six right-wing Likud members.

It is not just the 2009 class who might be disappointed. Others such as Kara and Chaim Katz could also see themselves disappointed as well. With so much focus on his coalition partners and 17 of the 30 Likud MKs expecting a ministry, Prime Minister Netanyahu might have bigger headaches during his fourth government from his own party members who are not happy with their appointments.

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