Lieberman vows to block settlement freeze efforts in Israel’s next government 19Mar13 March 19, 2013

Haaretz    -    18 March 2013

3495245321Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would seek to prevent any renewal of a construction freeze in West Bank settlements.

Hours before Prime Minister Netanyahu was to swear in Israel 33rd government coalition, Lieberman told reporters at a press conference that after “seeing no results” from an attempted freeze, he would “oppose every effort” to try again. “We are prepared to make gestures, but they cannot be unilateral,” Lieberman said. “All members of Yisrael Beiteinu will oppose a free if such [a suggestion] is raised.

Lieberman also denied rumors that he planned to split his party from the join Knesset faction formed with Netanyahu’s Likud. “That is not the agenda,” he said. “There are those in Likud that are dissatisfied with the unification of the factions as well, but we have time to think things over during holiday break, and only after that will we consolidate out stance.

Netanyahu will present his new coalition at 3:20 P.M. and swear in the new ministers in an official ceremony at 7:30 P.M. The new government will then convene for its first meeting at 8:30 P.M.

Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu is considered the big winner in the coalition talks. For its 11 Knesset members, the party will receive five ministerial positions: foreign affairs is being saved for Lieberman until the conclusion of his trial; the agriculture portfolio will go to Yair Shamir; Yitzhak Aharonovitch will keep the public security portfolio; the tourism portfolio will go to Uzi Landau and Sofia Landver will keep the immigrant-absorption portfolio. The defense minister or the deputy interior minister will also be a member of Yisrael Beiteinu, as will the head of the prestigious Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (which will be headed, for now, by Lieberman himself), as will the heads of two other committees.

Among the Likud cabinet appointments, Moshe Ya’alon was named defense minister, and Danny Danon was named deputy defense minister. Outgoing Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar will serve as Interior Minister in the new government, and Haim Katz is slated to chair the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

Tzachi Hanegbi is slated to chair the Knesset House Committee, and to replace Ofir Akunis in a year and a half as deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Akunis will be appointed as deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, acting as the liaison between the government and the Knesset. Government sources told Haaretz that the Communications Ministry portfolio was transferred from Akunis to Gilad Erdan at the last minute, as part of his compensation package.

Erdan, who served as environmental protection minister in the previous government, is to be given a range of roles. He is expected to be appointed home front defense minister as well as communications minister, with the Communications Ministry expanded to include the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Government Press Office. Erdan will also be responsible for strategic dialogue with the United States, and will be a member of the political-security cabinet.

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