Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reinstated Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan in his post on Sunday evening, according to reports in Hebrew-language Israeli media.
Netanyahu had set aside the priority of reinstating Ben Dahan on Sunday while focusing instead on the immediate crisis surrounding the question of who should be the new defense minister.
Ben Dahan, as Deputy Defense Minister, was automatically out of a job with the resignation of Yisrael Beytenu Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman last week.
Bayit Yehudi chairman and current Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett has said he wants the portfolio, and without it, his party will leave the Likud government coalition.
If that happens, the Netanyahu government will effectively collapse and there will be no choice but to call new elections.
Netanyahu said he would make a public announcement Sunday evening, and it is believed he will choose to relinquish the foreign affairs portfolio and appoint a new foreign affairs ministry, while retaining the defense portfolio for himself.
The Bayit Yehudi party said in a statement on Sunday, meanwhile, that the party will not vote with the coalition, meanwhile, until the decision to postpone a vote on reinstating Dahan has been reversed. In a statement following Sunday morning’s cabinet meeting, Bayit Yehuda said Netanyahu’s decision to deal with the issue “in the coming days” was “an unfair and unjust act against an honest and worthy public figure.” Ben Dahan himself said in a statement simply that the move “breaks a coalition agreement” that has to be respected.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has been pushing for new elections since Liberman’s resignation. He reportedly teamed up with Bennett to exert pressure for the elections to be held on March 26, 2019.
Elections are not supposed to be held until the end of the current government term in November 2019.