Monday, April 20, 2015

Bennett May Receive Intelligence Portfolio - Gil Ronen, Shimon Cohen

by Gil Ronen, Shimon Cohen

Netanyahu looks ready to present Rivlin with rough outline of government as he seeks two-week extension to form a coalition.

In the course of this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to ask President Reuven Rivlin for a two-week extension of the initial 28 days he received to cobble together a governing coalition. He will, however, probably inform Rivlin of the rough outline of what his government will look like.

According to Israel Hayom, which is considered close to Netanyahu, the Likud party will hold the Justice, Public Security, Transportation, Welfare and Education ministries, as well as several other portfolios. All in all, Likud will hold 10-12 portfolios.

Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu will receive the Finance Ministry, which Kahlon will head. In addition, it will receive the Construction and Housing Ministry, which will be headed by MK Yoav Galant, and the Envitronmental Protection Ministry, which will be headed by MK Eli Elaluf.

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett is expected to continue to hold the Economics Ministry, his aspirations to the Foreign Ministry notwithstanding. He will also, however, receive the Intelligence portfolio, currently held by Yuval Steinitz of Likud, as well as continue to serve in the Security-Diplomacy Cabinet.

The Jewish Home will also receive the Agriculture Ministry, to be headed by Uri Ariel, and the Ministry for Senior Citizens, which will be headed by Ayelet Shaked.

Shas will hold the Interior Ministry or the Agriculture Ministry as well as the Religions Ministry, on which Jewish Home will have a deputy minister.

United Torah Judaism will head the Knesset's Finance Committee and have a deputy minister in the Health Ministry. These positions will be manned by MKs Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman.

The Foreign Ministry will apparently remain in the hands of Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman.

Trouble for Iran?

If the report pans out, Bennett's appointment as Intelligence Minister could have serious implications for the region, including Iran. Bennett was the "star" of the Gaza war in 2014. He refused to take Cabinet intelligence briefers at their word and went to the theater of operations to talk to officers on the ground. In this way, he learned that the government was being fed inaccurate and incomplete information about the terror tunnel threat, and successfully lobbied for an extensive anti-tunnel operation.

In the post-war wrangling over Bennett's role in the events, Channel 2's main investigative news program, Uvda, as well as the ultra-leftist Haaretz newspaper, vindicated Bennett, after he claimed that the operation against Hamas's terror tunnels was largely a product of his insistence.

Uvda's report determined that it was Bennett who repeatedly raised the subject of the tunnels at cabinet sessions in the summer, while Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon tried to avoid launching an operation against the tunnels.

"If there is anything that a person who is familiar with the protocols of the cabinet sessions can see," reported Uvda's editor and anchorwoman Ilana Dayan, "it is that Minister Naftali Bennett demands, again and again, to launch an operation against the tunnels, and he hears an answer that more or less repeats itself, from Defense Minister Yaalon: the tunnel threat is one we can live with, it need not be defined as a target, at least not in this round of fighting.”

If Bennett now receives unfettered access to Israel's intelligence agencies, and should he repeat this kind of performance regarding the Iranian threat, he may prove to be a key player in lobbying the government for whatever action needs to be taken against Iran. While he will not be Defense Minister, as he wished and others predicted, the Intelligence Ministry may be a meaningful and important compromise, with wide implications.

For now, it must be stressed, there has been no confirmation of Israel Hayom's report from any other source.

Gil Ronen, Shimon Cohen


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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