Israelis were caught by surprise yesterday as the state revealed that it had a $10 billion budget deficit this year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, though, that the deficit may not necessitate a tax raise.
The Israeli election won’t happen for a week, but Netanyahu, widely expected to win, is reportedly choosing his next cabinet. An article in Israeli daily Maariv suggested, without naming a source, that the prime minister is looking at current Education Minister Gideon Saar to head the Finance Ministry, where he will face the deficit.
The article added that current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is leaving Knesset, may become Israel’s next ambassador to the U.S. — a country with which he has historically had good relations. Previous reports had speculated that Netanyahu aide Ron Dermer would be named to the post.
The Defense Ministry, said the article, could go to Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, while the Foreign Ministry, formerly in the hands of Avigdor Liberman, may remain under Netanyahu — as a caretaker mnister. Liberman resigned the post after he was indicted for fraud and breach of trust last year, and Netanyahu may want to reserve the spot for him if he emerges from the trial innocent.
A column by Bloomberg View coulmnist Jeffrey Goldberg, meanwhile, is making waves here. Goldberg wrote that President Obama has taken to saying, privately, that "Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are" as it expands West Bank settlements — dimming prospects for a future Palestinian state. Tzipi Livni, head of the pro-Palestinian negotations Hatnua Party, called the report a "wake-up call."