JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Naftali Bennett, the head of a far-right political party, as the minister of military affairs following a political deadlock.
In a statement, the ruling Likud party said Netanyahu extended the offer to Bennett during a meeting Friday morning, adding the appointment would be voted on at the next cabinet meeting.
The appointment is temporary and will last until the formation of a new cabinet, it added.
Ayelet Shaked of Bennett’s New Right party welcomed the move, saying Netanyahu had offered the party a choice of two smaller agriculture and diaspora affairs ministries or just military affairs.
“We agreed that Bennett would be appointed” the minister of military affairs. “I am convinced that this is what is right for … Israel,” she tweeted.
Bennett, who has in the past called for tougher military action against Gaza, will take the portfolio from Netanyahu, who has simultaneously served as prime minister and war minister for nearly a year following the resignation of Avigdor Lieberman.
Netanyahu fired Bennett, the former education minister, and his ally Shaked, the former justice minister, from the cabinet following the April election.
Bennett’s party failed to pass the electoral threshold in the April election, but it entered the Israeli parliament (Knesset) again after running on an alliance of extremist right-wing parties.
“Bennett perfectly preyed on Netanyahu’s paranoia and is now reaping the award,” said an analysis published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Saturday.
According to the paper, Netanyahu could have bought Bennett’s loyalty as the leader of a party of eight lawmakers if he had agreed to appoint him the minister a year ago when Lieberman resigned from the position.
“But Netanyahu refused, taking the job for himself. Now Bennett has taken it from him, for a lot less,” it added.
Netanyahu’s appointment of an extremist as the minister of military affairs comes amid heightened tensions in Gaza.
Israeli energy minister Yuval Steinitz threatened on Sunday that Tel Aviv might have to launch a military operation in the besieged coastal enclave.
Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said Palestinian resistance groups were ready to confront any aggression as he dismissed a prisoner swap with Israel.
“They don’t have a functional government to discuss major issues. They cannot take decisive and crucial decisions at this point and we are ready to face the enemy,” he said.