The last government of Israel, under PM Netanyahu and with Finance Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, decided that 22 Ministers were too many for the Cabinet and fixed the maximum number of ministers by law at 18 (plus the PM) and expunged ministers without portfolio. However, that was before the recent election and the need for Bibi to form a coalition by negotiating with the 5 parties who have joined him in a narrow right wing government coalition with only 61 seats, namely Shas, UTJ, Bayit Yehudi and Kulanu.
Of course, they each made demands that he had to meet and this included Ministers for each party, including Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu as Finance Minister and the Education, Justice and Agriculture ministries to Bayit Yehudi. And he needs more ministers to satisfy his own Likud Party. He left the Foreign Ministry for the former incumbent Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beitanu, but then Lieberman refused to join. So Bibi has kept the FM for himself, open until someone else comes along. He left the incumbent “Boogie” Ya’alon as Defense Minister.
So what does an experienced politician do, when faced with an impasse? He overcomes the barrier by passing a resolution. In this case he got the Cabinet of the former government in its last meeting, which was slimmed down with all the current opposition parties absent, to reverse the former law. He quickly passed it through the necessary procedures of the Knesset and lo and behold, more Ministers. The bill to expand the number of ministers, including ministers without portfolio, to 20 and to add 4 more deputy ministers, passed its first reading in the Knesset in the first session today. It passed exactly by 61 to 59, the exact numbers of the government parties and the opposition. Actually the government itself cannot be installed until this bill passes its third reading, and the final date for the installation is Thurs!
The leader of the Opposition, Isaac “Bujie” Herzog of Labor (all Israeli politicians seem to have silly nicknames) threatened to oppose this bill with all his power, and to cause a new election if he can. Lapid even submitted a petition to the Supreme Court against the expansion of the number of ministers, but it was summarily rejected. The main argument against the expansion of ministers is that it will cost millions of shekels for each minister. But, the opposition forgets that if they are able to force a defeat of the government on this or any other issue, it will cost much more, billions of shekels to have another election, and probably with the same outcome. Meanwhile Bibi is doing what politicians do best, he’s buying off other politicians to cement his control.