Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party loyalist Amir Ohana is likely to be named foreign minister. according to a report on Tuesday outlining the expected contours of the cabinet of the incoming prime minister.
It was previously believed that the State Department would go to former ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. The Biden administration had reportedly sent a message that it would be in favor of Dermer being given a higher position in government, after expressing displeasure with some of the other expected appointments.
Among other expected appointments reported by Channel 12 was MK Miri Regev who was poised to head the Education Ministry, and either Yoav Kisch or Ofir Akunis as Knesset speaker. All three are Likud MKs.
Earlier Tuesday, two senior lawmakers from within the Likud party criticized Netanyahu for handing over some senior positions in his expected coalition to allies outside the party.
Netanyahu reportedly reached a compromise with the leader of the far-right religious Zionist party Bezalel Smotrich in their stalled coalition talks, with the latter agreeing to abandon his demand to become defense minister and take over the treasury instead.
According to the new report, the defense portfolio will remain with Netanyahu’s Likud party and will go to Likud MK Yoav Gallant, a former IDF general.
Smotrich had demanded the Defense Ministry, which would have given him significant control over the West Bank and the daily lives of the Palestinians. Such an appointment was met with fierce opposition from the United States and was criticized domestically, including by right-wing figures who noted that Smotrich lacked security experience.
Smotrich’s Religious Zionist party will nevertheless have some control over Israel’s policy in the West Bank, according to the report, and will be able to appoint a junior minister within the Defense Ministry.
Under the proposed compromise, which has yet to be confirmed by the parties, Smotrich would get control of the Ministry of Finance, while the other major contender for that job – Shas leader Aryeh Deri – will get the Ministry of Interior, one of the seven future portfolios. held by the two Haredi parties.
Reports from public broadcaster Kan and Channel 12 said Deri would be given a “super ministry” that would effectively combine the Home Office and Transport Ministry into one office – to make up for losing the job of Finance Minister.
However, Deri’s appointments face legal challenges that would require changes to the country’s quasi-constitutional laws due to Deri’s most recent conviction for financial crimes – his second.
Deri’s ultra-Orthodox party is also expected to host the Negev and Galilee Ministry and Health Ministry. Kan said the party would also control the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, while Channel 12 said it did instead of received the Ministry of Religious Services and a position in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Haredi United Torah Judaism party is expected to have the Ministry of Housing and another portfolio, Channel 12 reported.
Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, is expected to be appointed minister of public security, giving him control over the police, and his party will also take over the Ministry of Agriculture.
Ben Gvir’s appointment as head of the Ministry of Public Security reportedly means the ministry will extend its power over Israel’s police, with changes to be made to a police order governing the relationship.
The proposal emerged during negotiations between Likud and Otzma Yehudit, several sources familiar with the developments told Haaretz daily. They said it will not be specifically mentioned in coalition agreements, but rather will be covered by a more general clause granting powers to the minister of public security.
Some senior former police officials have spoken out against the reported move, with the former police chief in Jerusalem saying it could endanger Israeli democracy.
While negotiations are underway and appointments could still change, the framework reported by Channel 12 would remove some of the key obstacles that have prevented Netanyahu from putting together a working coalition government since his victory at the head of a bloc of right-wing and religious parties in the November 1 elections.
Likud has declined to comment on the negotiations, but said some of the numerous reports were untrue.