Amid a sharp public outcry, Police Minister Moshe Shahal has turned down the post of information minister.
He announced his decision Tuesday, just two days after being given the appointment in a Cabinet reshuffle.
On Sunday, in an effort to bring the breakaway faction of the right-wing Tsomet into the Labor-led coalition, the Cabinet narrowly approved the appointment of Gonen Segev, leader of the Yi’ud faction, as energy minister.
The post was previously held by Shahal, who was given the information portfolio, a newly created Cabinet position, to add to his position as head of the police ministry.
Several Cabinet ministers said that having a police minister who is also information minister smacked of a totalitarian government.
Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein said the whole idea reminded him of something “straight out of 1984,” the George Orwell classic about a totalitarian society.
In a letter to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Tuesday, Shahal said he had decided to turn down the post.
The decision, he said, came as a result of public criticism that the new Information Ministry was a waste of taxpayer’s money and that his holding the post would be a conflict of interest with his responsibilities as police minister.
Rabin, who unsuccessfully tried to persuade Shahal to change his mind, maintained that an information ministry was needed to communicate government policy to the public.
The Meretz Party, which had strongly opposed making Shahal information minister, welcomed his decision.
“It is a good sign that he was sensitive enough to listen to criticism, and quick enough to do something about it,” Knesset member Dedi Zucker told Israel Radio.
Yi’ud’s addition to the coalition is expected to bolster Rabin, who until now has held a narrow 61-vote blocking majority in the 120-seat Knesset, including five Arab Knesset members.
In Sunday’s reshuffling, Segev’s Yi’ud colleague, Alex Goldfarb, was appointed Deputy Minister of Housing.
The Yi’ud agreement still requires Knesset approval.