Netanyahu's ministers and their hollow titles
Op-ed: When an American official arrives in Israel, who is he supposed to meet with – the minister in charge of strategic affairs? The minister in charge of the dialogue with the Americans? The intelligence minister? The deputy foreign minister? Or perhaps the minister in charge of Iranian affairs?
It's highly ironic that it was Gilad Erdan of all people who received the Strategic Threats portfolio on Monday. What does he have to do with threats – strategic or non-strategic? Why if he knew how to threaten, we wouldn’t be watching him 10 days after the government's establishment agreeing to take what he had been offered in the first place: The Public Security Ministry without the Interior Ministry.
That may be the reason why Erdan also received the Public Diplomacy portfolio: Let him explain to us once and for all what the Strategic Threats portfolio is all about.
And not just to us. Minister Erdan will have a lot of public diplomacy work. He will also have to explain this outrageous distribution of portfolios: Giving the Intelligence portfolio to Yisrael Katz, the responsibility for the negotiations with the Palestinians and the dialogue with the Americans to Silvan Shalom, the Strategic Threats portfolio to Gilad Erdan, putting Yuval Steinitz in charge of Iranian affairs and appointing Tzipi Hotovely as the deputy foreign minister.
When an American administration representative – for example, the person in charge of nuclear nonproliferation – arrives in Israel, who is he supposed to meet with? The minister in charge of public diplomacy and strategic affairs? The minister in charge of the dialogue with the Americans? Or perhaps with the intelligence minister? Wait, and what about the minister in charge of Iranian affairs? And the deputy foreign minister? And we have yet to mention the defense minister and prime minister. The poor American official will have to meet with half of the government. And if he doesn't – a crisis will break out! Why every minister will feel deprived and immediately threaten not to vote with the government in the Knesset, like Minister Zeev Elkin did on Monday evening when he learned that the Strategic Threats portfolio was being taken away from him.
It wouldn't have been so bad if all these titles, aimed at satisfying the unsatisfied ministers, carried some kind of meaning. But it's no secret that the more impressive their titles – there is nothing behind them.
But there is no reason to scorn Erdan for capitulating. What's the difference between him and other ministers, who wanted one thing and got something else, who were promised an upgrade and received a downgrade, who threatened that they would not agree under any circumstances to receive less than a certain portfolio and agreed to receive less than a certain portfolio?
In other words, what's the difference between Erdan, who wanted the Foreign Ministry and received the Public Security Ministry, and Silvan Shalom, who said "it's either the Foreign Ministry or I'm out" and received the Interior Ministry? The only difference between Erdan and the others is that Erdan went the furthest and capitulated in the lowest manner. After staying outside the government, he even announced that he would propose a law to privatize the Bezeq telecommunications company. For a moment he looked like the presenter flexing his muscles in a Bezeq commercial. Where is that law today? That's the way it is. When you capitulate for a week, it's hard to stand up straight.
The embittered ministers were joined Monday by Zeev Elkin, who held Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition for him in the previous term and established his current coalition. Elkin remained with the Immigration Absorption Ministry. He probably wouldn’t admit it, but this is the last portfolio he would have selected for himself. Elkin, who only a week ago said he would do anything to see Erdan return to the government table, may be prepared to do a lot, but not everything: For example, giving up the Strategic Threats portfolio in favor of Erdan.
From here on in, it's like a domino structure: When one falls, it drops the one behind it. Until Monday night, it was unclear whether Elkin would receive the Jerusalem portfolio and what would Jerusalem Mayor have to say about this title, and mainly who would he drop.
Netanyahu is fortunate enough to always have Begin. Benny Begin. Ten days ago, he sat in the Knesset plenum and was surprised to discover that he had been appointed a minister without a portfolio. On Monday, he was probably less surprised when it turned out that he was actually a portfolio without a minister. Erdan's return to the government raises the Likud's minister quota, which means Netanyahu has to get rid of one minister. Begin is the ideal candidate. He anyway doesn’t know anything about strategic threats either.