Likud MK Yuli Edelstein on Tuesday accepted an offer from his party's chairman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to become Israel's next Health Minister.
A joint statement by Netanyahu and Edelstein said that the senior former Knesset speaker had “accepted the challenge” and “chosen the health portfolio” out of several posts offered to him.
“After serving Israel’s citizens for seven years as Knesset speaker, I have chosen to accept the most central and significant challenge Israel faces, the fight against coronavirus and preparing Israel’s health system for new challenges,” Edelstein said.
“I thank Edelstein for accepting my request… and wish him luck,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying in the statement, adding that Edelstein would also be part of the State Security Cabinet and deputy chairman of a ministerial body overseeing the response to coronavirus.
The development came shortly after Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov submitted his resignation ahead of the appointment of a new health minister. The outgoing health minister, Yaakov Litzman, is set to receive the housing portfolio.
Litzman praised the appointment of Edelstein and called him "fit for this important and challenging post." The ultra-Orthodox lawmaker said that he looked forward to handing over the post to Edelstein in an organized manner.
The right-wing Yamina party fumed at Netanyahu for the appointment, which the party chairman and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett was eyeing.
“Netanyahu slammed the door on our entry to the government,” a Yamina source was quoted saying in a party statement. “He looked for the perfect way to humiliate Yamina and its voters and succeeded in this.”
“This is a calculated move by Netanyahu to destroy the alliance with the religious Zionism. Netanyahu’s betrayal of his biggest supporters signals the beginning of his end in politics.”
Edelstein held the position of Knesset speaker from 2013 until earlier this year when he defied the High Court of Justice on convening the parliament. The post was then taken up by Blue & White’s Benny Gantz, with Netanyahu’s support, kicking off talks that resulted in a three-year coalition deal with a rotation of the premiership.