Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin is expected to resign in the coming days, as coalition parties refused to allow the Likud to have one more cabinet seat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained in a Facebook post Friday.
After Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan was sworn in last Monday, 10 days after the rest of the cabinet, Netanyahu made what he called a “personal request” to heads of other coalition parties to allow the Likud to have 13 ministers instead of the agreed-upon 12, but they would not agree.
In Friday’s Facebook post, Netanyahu framed the request as “to allow our friend, MK Bennie Begin, to be an additional Likud minister in the government.”
“Bennie is an exemplary public servant. A man of values with great experience and talent, one of the pillars of the Likud,” Netanyahu wrote. “It is no coincidence that the Israeli public loves and appreciates him so much.”
The prime minister added that Begin’s contributions to discussions in the general and security cabinets are significant and necessary. In addition, Netanyahu denied reports that Begin refused to resign.
“There is no man more moral or with greater values than he. I will make every effort to bring him back,” he concluded.
A spokesman for the prime minister had no comment when asked why Begin, who Netanyahu personally selected for the Likud candidates list ahead of the last election, and not a different minister, has to be the one to resign. He also had no answer as to whether the offer to Minister-without- Portfolio Ophir Akunis to be ambassador to the UN – thus reducing the number of Likud ministers – is still on the table.
A senior Bayit Yehudi source pointed out: “Our signed coalition agreement sets the number of Likud ministers at 12. It is up to Netanyahu to choose which 12 Likud MKs should serve in those positions.”
On Saturday night, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said he was offered the Foreign Ministry and three other portfolios for his party in order to increase the coalition’s numbers from 61 to 72, a claim the Likud denied.
“I wouldn’t have gotten into this if [the Likud] hadn’t said it never happened. I don’t like when people lie,” Lapid told Channel 2’s Meet the Press. “The prime minister’s people spoke to us via MK Meir Cohen and asked to expand the government.”
Lapid said he immediately rejected the offer during his meeting with Netanyahu last Monday night.
“This is a government that we cannot be part of,” he stated. “[Yesh Atid] will be an alternative to the government… We want to be the leading party after the next election and that means I will be a candidate for prime minister.”
As such, Lapid plans to go to the US next week for meetings to discuss diplomatic matters, saying, “We need to promote the country’s diplomatic interests, because the government isn’t doing it.”
The Likud responded that “no one offered anything to Lapid with permission from the prime minister. Furthermore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Yair Lapid recently and the topic did not even come up in their meeting.”