Skip to main content

Netanyahu seeks to increase ministers in new goverment

To secure his coalition, the prime minister has already offered most ministerial positions to leaders outside his party
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office on Sunday (AFP)

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

After Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party won 30 seats in the 17 March elections, he was forced to make concessions to his four coalition partners - the centre-right Kulanu, the far-right Jewish Home and the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism - to secure their support.

With few positions left for his own party members, Netanyahu is seeking to increase ministerial positions to head off criticism from within Likud, commentators said.

In its last meeting before Netanyahu's new government is to be sworn in by Wednesday, the cabinet voted on Sunday to push back the implementation of a law that would limit the number of ministers to 18.

The proposed amendment, which must now be put to a vote in parliament, aims to allow Netanyahu to have a broader cabinet of 20 ministers which would allow senior Likud members to have portfolios, officials said.

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. 

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.