The political drama surrounding the titanic struggle between Israel Katz and Eli Cohen for the position of Foreign Minister provided quite a few headlines and tweets on Twitter, but the more significant appointment in the new Netanyahu government is that of Ron Dermer for the position of Minister of Strategic Affairs.
why is it important
Dermer really wanted to be the foreign minister.
Netanyahu would also prefer it.
It could have been a rare case where the most competent and suitable person was appointed to the position, but not for the first time politics was stronger.
Although he did not receive the title, Dermer is expected to be Israel's real foreign minister and the most powerful and influential person in the political-security field in the new government after Netanyahu himself.
This is not only due to Dermer's extensive experience and Netanyahu's high regard for him, but also from the fact that he is considered to be close to the incoming prime minister's close associates, who even sees him as a potential successor.
The influential person in the political-security field?
Dermer (Photo: Reuven Castro)
the situation picture
To enable Dermer's appointment, Netanyahu will revive the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which was closed about a year and a half ago by the previous government.
It was only earlier this week that its assimilation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was finally completed and the lights in the old offices in Ramat Gan were finally turned off.
It is not clear what the renewed ministry will look like under Dermer's leadership.
In a certain scenario, the Office for Regional Cooperation may find itself annexed there.
This would make sense in terms of the areas of occupation and it would save several tens of millions of shekels for the taxpayers.
Whatever Dermer's title is - he is most likely expected to deal with the two main goals that Netanyahu presented in his speech in the Knesset - stopping Iran's nuclear program and adding more Arab countries to the Abraham Accords, first and foremost Saudi Arabia.
As a result, Dermer will be Netanyahu's source and source in the White House on the most sensitive issues, just like in the years he served as Israel's ambassador in Washington.
He will also be Netanyahu's emissary to the leaders of Arab countries and especially to the palace of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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The big picture
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in his speech that the outgoing government "laid the foundations" for full Saudi accession to the Abraham Accords and promised to update Netanyahu on the confidential details.
"If the new government continues on the path we have carved out, it is possible to reach full normalization with the Saudis within a short period of time," said Lapid.
The Bent-Lapid government did achieve progress in relations with Saudi Arabia, in the form of tightening security ties, the agreement on the islands of Tiran and Fin in the Red Sea, the Saudi permission for Israeli airlines to fly in the kingdom's airspace and the willingness to discuss direct flights of Muslim pilgrims from Israel to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj.
But the reality that made all of this possible has changed in recent months.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States entered a serious crisis following the dispute over the scope of oil production, and relations between the United States and Israel are facing a difficult test in light of Washington's skepticism about Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing government.
Any normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia will only come through normalization between Saudi Arabia and the US. Netanyahu will try to push President Biden in that direction, but the tools in his hands are limited and his political credit in the White House is almost non-existent.
also wanted Dermer as foreign minister.
Netanyahu (Photo: Reuven Castro)
between the lines
After the most significant government ministries such as the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Education became, under the auspices of the coalition negotiations, a warehouse of spare parts for politicians, there was no reason to think that the fate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be any different.
Netanyahu never liked the Foreign Ministry.
He has been accusing Israeli diplomats for years of two major sins - leftism and leaks to the media.
It is not clear which of them is considered a greater crime in his eyes.
After a year and a half of rehabilitation during the Bennett and Lapid eras, during which the Foreign Ministry reached levels of influence it had not had for years, Netanyahu's tenure opened with renewed abuse of the Foreign Ministry and attempts to weaken it and make it irrelevant.
The appointment of Eli Cohen to the position of Foreign Minister was actually a successful decision by Netanyahu.
Cohen is a talented and relatively moderate politician.
But the strange rotation arrangement with Israel Katz, in which the two will change positions after only one year, will make Cohen and the Foreign Ministry a joke.
No foreign foreign minister will take seriously an Israeli foreign minister who, on his first day in office, is a lame duck counting down his days.
Beyond the image and political damage that Cohen may suffer, those who will be harmed are Israel's foreign relations and its position in the world.
It is not clear why Katz is so obsessed with returning to the Foreign Minister's office. His short term in office in 2019 was punctuated by humiliations on Netanyahu's part and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo's refusal to meet with him.
Katz deserves credit for initiating the non-combat agreements with the Gulf states, which formed the basis for the Abraham Accords that were signed a year later. But beyond that, it seemed that Katz was mostly suffering and bored with the position of Foreign Minister.
It is not clear why Katz is so obsessed with returning to the Foreign Minister's Office (Photo: Reuven Castro)
worth paying attention to
Netanyahu's decision to appoint Tzachi Hanegbi as head of the National Assembly and National Security Advisor was a pleasant surprise. Hanegbi is relatively moderate, smart and very experienced. He is expected to focus mainly on the Iranian issue. After the elections, Hanegbi said that Netanyahu is expected to order a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities during his term of office the upcoming prime minister. It is not clear if his words were just an assessment or information.
In the past decade, the role of the head of the National Assembly has become significant and highly influential on decision-making. The crowding of the political-security field in the upcoming government may pose a challenge for the Negev, who will have to try and maintain the position of the National Assembly and his own position within the security system and the cabinet.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs