The Knesset plenum approved on Wednesday the government's request to appoint MK Shaul Mofaz as a minister-without-portfolio and deputy prime minister, with 71 Knesset members voting in favor of the measure and 23 opposing.
The Kadima party chairman was sworn in shortly after the vote.
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Earlier in the session, opposition officials claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mofaz had made a secret deal, in addition to the coalition agreement signed between the Likud and Kadima on Monday night, in a controversial move meant to avoid general elections in September.
'No secret deals.' Netanyahu (L) during Knesset debate (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The plenum session was halted due to these accusations, and Netanyahu excused himself to consult with a legal official.
Upon his return, Netanyahu denied claims he had made secret deals with Kadima: "During the negotiations, there was talk about possibilities that could occur in the future. These (discussions) never reached the point of agreement.
"Any option that will reach that point will be reported, as per the law, including the possibility that Kadima members are to be appointed as ministers in the future," said Netanyahu.
"This (unity agreement) was the only agreement that was signed," the PM claimed.
According to the signed agreement, Mofaz will be the only cabinet member from Kadima. However, on Tuesday it was reported that the two had agreed that other Kadima members, apparently three, would be appointed ministers in a few months.
The deal has left the Opposition virtually powerless, as it now lacks the ability to raise the necessary 40 MK signatures for a nonconfidence vote.
Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich will head the Opposition for the duration of the Knesset's term.
Lawmakers taking to the podium Wednesday leveled harsh criticism at Netanyahu and Mofaz for keeping the move secret.
"You've sold your soul to the devil," MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) blasted Mofaz. "The devil is the only one that profits from the deal," he said.
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On blamed both for "devising a deal so dirty the public has lost faith in all of us. One rotten apple – the Kadima Party – has spoiled us all."