At its weekly meeting, the cabinet today unanimously approved the appointment of MK Ayoob Kara (Likud) as Minister without portfolio and MK Eli Cohen (Kulanu) as Minister of Economy and Industry. The appointments are designed to make the government more stable and prevent unrest in the two parties.
Up until now, Cohen, 44, has chaired the Special Committee to Discuss the Bill for Increasing Competition and Reducing Concentration in Israel's Banking Market, which was founded under the coalition agreement with Kulanu, headed by Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon. Kahlon was seeking to use this committee to bypass the Knesset Finance Committee in order to pass important reforms that he was advocating. Following the resignation of Avi Gabai as Minister of Environmental Protection, one of Kulanu's founders, Kahlon preferred Cohen as Minister of Construction and Housing in place of MK Yoav Galant, another Kulanu member, whom Kahlon wanted to appoint as Minister of Economy and Industry. The distant relations between Galant and Kahlon since the government was formed and the transfer of employment from the Ministry of Economy and Industry to the Ministry of Labor, Welfare, and Social Services, however, have prevented this measure.
An accountant by trade, Cohen has served in senior positions in the S&P rating company and in Israel Land Development Company (TASE: ILDC) (ILDC). He was regarded as the right hand and confidant of ILDC controlling shareholder Idan Ofer, who gave him free shares in Israel Land Development Company Energy Ltd. (TASE: IE) in 2010. The paper value of these share soared to NIS 33 million a year later.
Cohen's appointment was accompanied by a calming of the water in Kulanu, including MK Rachel Azaria, who is now being appointed as Cohen's replacement to chair the banking reform committee. Azaria was previously promised a rotation agreement to head the Knesset Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee, but committee chairman MK Elie Elalouf made it clear to Kahlon that he had no intention of giving up his position. Kahlon decided to tie Azaria to him in another way - by appointing her as manager of Kulanu headquarters. As part of her job, Azaria is responsible for dealing with Kulanu's MKs, which could indicate that Kulanu is preparing for possible early elections, in view of the investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The appointments in Kulanu were accompanied by speeches in praise of the party by Azaria, Galant, and MK Roy Folkman.
The appointment of Kara as a minister, albeit without portfolio, has satisfied him, after years of publicly proclaiming his demand for a seat in the cabinet. During the last elections, Kara stated that Netanyahu had promised to appoint him as a minister. On the eve of the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, Kara left the building when he realized that the promise had not been fulfilled. Kara was later appointed Deputy Minister and acting Minister of Regional Cooperation. Two weeks ago, however, all the authority in this ministry was given to the New Minister of Regional Cooperation, MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud). Yesh Atid chairman and former Minister of Finance Yair Lapid commented, "The appointment of unnecessary ministers for political reasons is governmental corruption. A minister without portfolio is a person who is officially unemployed."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 22, 2017
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