Netanyahu seeks to hike number of ministers in new govt

Israel's cabinet is voting on whether or not to let Netanyahu have 20 ministers instead of 18

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Israel’s outgoing cabinet on Sunday approved legal changes that will allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hike the number of ministers in his new government.

In its last meeting before Netanyahu’s new government is to be sworn in by Wednesday, the cabinet voted to push back the implementation of a law limiting the number of ministers to 18.

The amendment, which must now be put to a vote in parliament, aims to allow Netanyahu to have a broader cabinet of 20 ministers in order to give portfolios to senior members of his ruling rightwing Likud party, officials said.

“The government has decided to delay implementation of a law limiting the number of ministers to 18 and the number of deputy ministers to four, until the next parliament,” an official in Netanyahu’s office told Agence France-Presse.

The Knesset is expected to vote on the amendment on Monday in a bid to have it passed before Wednesday, the last day when Netanyahu can legally swear in his new government.

It needs an absolute majority to pass, in what will be the first test of strength for Netanyahu’s coalition, which has a razor-thin majority of 61 in the 120-seat parliament.

Commentators said the goal was to head off criticism within Likud, which won 30 seats, after Netanyahu was forced to make concessions to his four coalition partners: the center-right Kulanu (10 seats), the far-right Jewish Home (eight) and the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas (seven) and United Torah Judaism (six).

In order to secure their support, he offered them more portfolios than expected, leaving little left for his own party members.

Netanyahu has reportedly asked the Knesset speaker to speed up the passage of the bill and allow for all three readings to take place on Monday.

The law capping the number of ministers was approved last year in a bid to reduce public spending.

When Netanyahu began his second term in office in 2009, he presided over a 30-member government, the largest in Israel’s history.