Netanyahu appoints former Knesset speaker as new health minister

Yuli Edelstein accepted the prime minister’s offer to serve as head of the Ministry of Health, as Israel prepares for a potential second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein issued a joint statement announcing the latter’s appointment to oversee Israel’s Health Ministry.

Edelstein assumes the role as Israel continues to emerge from the coronavirus crisis, during which the former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman faced harsh criticism for his handling of the pandemic. Litzman himself contracted the virus and was forced into quarantine, where he remained out of public view during the most precarious periods of the pandemic.

In the joint statement on Tuesday, Edelstein referred to the nation’s corona battle as its “most significant” challenge.

Following the official announcement of Edelstein’s appointment, the prime minister tweeted, “Best of luck to Yuli Edelstein in his position as Minister of Health. [We have] many important challenges ahead of us, for the benefit of all Israelis.”

In his position as health minister, Edelstein will serve in a leading role in the decision-making body setting the nation’s strategy to address the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus. While the rate of infections and fatalities continues to drop in Israel, the prime minister and other officials warn that a second wave of the virus could arrive, as it has in other countries.

In the previous government, Edelstein served as Knesset Speaker under Netanyahu, but was prevented from returning to the post in the new national unity government at the behest of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party.

In an unprecedented move prior to the coalition agreement, Edelstein resigned from his post instead of holding a vote to fill the position, which resulted in Gantz assuming the role. Ultimately, Netanyahu and Gantz hammered out a coalition agreement that led the formation of a new government, which is set to be sworn in on Wednesday.

On Monday, Netanyahu announced the appointment of Likud’s Gilad Erdan to serve as both Israel’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations.