Itongadol.- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed Tuesday to name senior Likud member Zeev Elkin as the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, backtracking on his election promise not to distribute the portfolio, but rather to keep it for himself.
Netanyahu backtracks on election promise, hands Jerusalem portfolio to Elkin
Elkin, who also serves as absorption minister, demanded the portfolio after the strategic affairs ministry was taken away from him and given to Gilad Erdan on Monday, to enable the latter\’s belated entry into Netanyahu\’s cabinet.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat fumed at the move after learning about the appointment in a late night meeting with the prime minister. The mayor had expected Netanyahu\’s retention of the portfolio to facilitate his own share in the Jerusalem ministry.
In a strongly worded statement, Barkat said the decision to reopen the ministry – which had been linked with the diaspora ministry in the previous government – was made without his agreement and "contradicts the prime minister\’s commitments as well as a government decision confirmed on Jerusalem Day." According to the Jerusalem mayor, the government had voted to leave the ministry under the control of the Prime Minister\’s Office and work with Jerusalem\’s municipality and Barkat on developing the highly contested capital.
"Jerusalem is not a consolation prize. It saddens me that narrow political considerations will lead to a massive waste of public funds and redundant bureaucracy which will further strain the government and municipality\’s attempt to develop and promote Jerusalem," Barkat said in the statement.
On Monday night, MK Gilad Erdan – a prominent member of the Likud – was confirmed as public security, strategic affairs, and public diplomacy minister. The transfer of the strategic affairs portfolio opened a new front between Elkin – who had originally been granted de facto responsibility over the ministry – and Netanyahu. Elkin conditioned his support of Erdan’s appointment on receiving the Jerusalem affairs portfolio instead.
"How would you expect a minister to act after he\’s fired," Elkin told Haaretz in his defense ahead of the vote on Erdan\’s appointment.
With Erdan\’s appointment, the number of ministers serving in the government climbed to 23. Benny Begin, a minister without a portfolio, could end up paying the price and choose to resign his cabinet post and keep the number of ministers at 22.