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Netanyahu's cabinet
Article added on April 1st, 2009; updated on April 2, 2009
  
After a decade in the political desert, today's Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu did everything to return to power. The result is a gigantic cabinet with 30 ministers as well as 9 Deputy Ministers. The government's reunion table had literally to be enlarged to accommodate everyone.

Although Benyamin Netanyahu had only finished second in the
Israeli parliamentary election of February 2009, he was the hot favorite to head the next government. With 65 center-right and right-wing members in the Knesset, he could have formed a cabinet composed by political parties of the right alone. It would have made sense because, during the electoral campaign, Netanyahu had distinguished himself by right-wing rhetoric. In the end however, the Likud leader got cold feet.

First, Benyamin Netanyahu tried to charm the Kadima leader Tzipi Livni into his government. She declined because she had no intention to serve as Netanyahu's fig leaf. At the same time, as the relative winner of the February 2009 election, she not only declined to join Netanyahu's government because of political divergences, notably the Middle East peace process, but also because she had no intention to serve under Netanyahu. She insisted on the idea of rotation of power, but Netanyahu was not willing to offer her the premiership during half of the next prime minister's term.

Second, with the right-wing populist or even racist Avigdor Lieberman on his side, Netanyahu needed another fig leaf or another scapegoat on his side “hindering” him from executing a strictly right-wing agenda.

Netanyahu made Ehud Barak, the Labour leader and Olmert's Minister of Defense an offer he could not refuse: he offered Barak five ministries, including the Ministry of Defense to Barak himself. The Labour leader, convinced that he is THE man for the job accepted gladly after the Labour Party convention decided with 680 against 507 votes to join Netanyahu's government.

At the time, 7 of the 13 Labour members of parliament said they would not support such a move. By the time the parliament had to actually give the government its confidence, the resistance had largely evaporated, although 5 members of the Labour party refused to vote for the new government; they simply abstained, but did not vote against the coalition. 69 of the 120 members of the Knesset voted for the new government, including most members of the six parties represented in the cabinet (Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labour, Shas,
Habayit Hayehudil, United Torah Judaism), 45 parliamentarians voted against the new cabinet and 6 (including 5 Labour members) abstained. The United Torah Judaism party joined the coalition at the last minute and obtained 2 of 9 deputy ministers. The government controls now up to 74 lawmakers in the Knesset. Labour now really serves as a fig leaf.

Given the fact that Ehud Barack executed Israel's ill-conceived
war against Hamas, which was doomed from the start, one could argue that Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak won't be worse than Olmert-Livni-Barak. However, this does not mean that we can expect anything better from the new government. Barak's presence in the new cabinet may divide Labour even more and lead to its insignificance.



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The new government seems to be doomed from the start. Netanyahu, Lieberman and Barak are three egocentric politicians who share one common goal: the lust for power. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether women are the future of men, as one (female) friend put it to me last year. Tzipi Livni is the one untainted politician in Israel. The Kadima leader resisted the horse-trading with the religious parties in 2008 to become prime minister without new elections. She also resisted Netanyahu's charm in 2009 to join his possible right-wing government. If she had also opposed the 2008 war against Hamas, she would look even more credible. Still, her integrity remains unquestioned. Whether she can become a credible leader is another matter. However, compared to the corrupt Lieberman and the tainted Olmert, Netanyahu and Barak, she looks like Israel's future if the current government should fail, which looks pretty certain.

Avigdor Lieberman, the man who suggested to bomb the Aswan barrage, to quote just one of his infamous suggestions, is now leading Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ehud Barak, the man who thought he could decisively defeat Hamas in 2008 is again the Minister of Defense. He is still popular with a majority of the Israeli public which has not yet realized that the war was not only a military, but also a public relations blunder. Yuval Steinitz will serve as Minister of Finance in a world economic crisis unseen since World War Two, although he has only distinguished himself so far as a security, but not as an economics and financial expert.

We can only hope that Netanyahu's government won't last long. Maybe the Israeli justice will do a great job and find proof corroborating allegations which will lead to the conviction of Avigdor Lieberman for corruption, money laundering and forgery of documents.

Avigdor Lieberman and Benyamin Netanyahu have known each other for quite some time. After leaving the racist Kach party, Lieberman joined the Likud party and was instrumental in Netanyahu's 1996 victory. Lieberman subsequently served as Netanyahu's cabinet director before he was ousted because he had made too many people angry. Lieberman later served as Minister of infrastructure and Minister of transport in Sharon's governments before he was ousted in 2004 because he opposed the evacuation of the Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip.

With the current government, born out of the desperation for power, Prime Minister Netanyahu is risking his (largely economic) reputation. The probably corrupt and racist Lieberman, the incompetent Barak and (the economically incompetent) Steinitz may sink him sooner than later. In the meantime, it looks as if we won't see progress in the Middle East peace talks.

Netanyahu's cabinet as of March 31, 2009
- Prime Minister, Minister of Economic Strategy, Minister of Pensioner Affairs: Benyamin Netanyahu, Likud
- Vice-premier minister, Minister of Regional Development, Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee: Silvan Shalom, Likud
- Vice-premier minister, Minister of strategic affairs: Moshe Ya'alon, Likud
- Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense: Ehud Barak, Labor
- Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beitenu
- Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy: Dan Meridor, Likud
- Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior : Eliyahu Yishai, Shas
- Minister without portfolio: Ze'ev Binyamin Begin, Likud
- Minister of Information and Diaspora: Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Likud
- Minister without portfolio: Yossi Peled, Likud
- Minister of Culture and Sport: Limor Livnat, Likud
- Minister of Minorities: Avishay Baverman, Labor
- Minister without portfolio: Meshulam Nahari, Shas
- Minister of Science and Technology: Daniel Hershkowitz, The Jewish Home, Habayit Hayehudi
- Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development: Shalom Simhon, Labour
- Minister of Communications: Moshe Kahlon, Likud
- Minister of Education: Gideon Sa'ar, Likud
- Minister of Environmental Protection: Gilad Erdan, Likud
- Minister of Finance: Yuval Steinitz, Likud
- Minister of Housing and Construction: Ariel Atias, Shas
- Minister of Immigration: Sofa Landver, Yisrael Beitenu
- Minister of Improvement of Government Services: Michael Eitan, Likud
- Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour: Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Labor
- Minister of Internal Security: Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Yisrael Beitenu
- Minister of Justice: Yaakov Neeman
- Minister of National Infrastructure: Uzi Landau, Yisrael Beitenu
- Minister of Religious Services: Ya'akov Margi, Shas
- Minister of Tourism: Stas Misezhnikov, Yisrael Beitenu
- Minister of Transportation and Road Safety: Yisrael Katz, Likud
- Minister of Welfare and Social Services: Isaac Herzog, Labour

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