While the incoming administration will be a hefty one, it does not appear Prime Minister Elect Binyamin Netanyahu will exceed the government of Ariel Sharon, which almost reached 30 cabinet ministers.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu has nothing to be embarrassed of, seemingly assembling a government with 27 ministers and 5-7 deputy ministers. The size of a cabinet has been a topic of growing discussion, especially among the opposition over recent years, and today, with talk of the need to cut government spending. This with the realization that each additional minister comes with a significant cost to the nation’s bank account, including an office, staff, vehicle, driver, and security. The criticism is compounded regarding ministers without portfolio, which simply means all the government ministries are filled so a candidate is appointed minister with all the privileges, sits at the cabinet and has a voice and vote, but has not formal responsibilities vis-à-vis a ministry.
During these trying economic times, Netanyahu is under increased scrutiny but defends the size of the government by explaining the broad coalition is necessary to extricate the economy from current difficult realities, as well as addressing serious security concerns. Netanyahu explained last week that without such a government, a smaller more streamlined cabinet would not have the support to move ahead and implement necessary legislation and this would indeed be wasteful, even if the cabinet would appear more cost effective on the surface.
The first Sharon government holds the record, with 29 ministers and 15 deputy ministers. This was a particularly large number when one realizes the government majority was only 67 of the 120-seat Knesset.
In defense of the incoming administration, coalition governments by their nature are larger, as was the administration of Yitzchak Shamir in 1990, numbering 26 ministers.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)