Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Yoav Gallant as immigration and absorption minister on Monday. The move followed Gallant’s announcement that he was leaving the Kulanu Party.
Netanyahu’s decision aims to allow Gallant, formerly GOC Sothern Command, to keep his seat in the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet.
Gallant has not confirmed any political plans ahead of the April 9 elections, but after months of attending Likud conferences nationwide, it is believed that he plans to vie for a slot on the ruling party’s Knesset list.
Likud’s primaries have been set for Feb. 5.
In his new position, Gallant will be taking over for Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who last week was named acting immigration and absorption minister to replace Sofia Landver (Yisrael Beytenu), who resigned last month.
Kulanu insiders said that Gallant’s departure from the party came as no real surprise and was a long time in the making.
Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon issued a statement saying, “I thank Minister Gallant for all his hard work while he was part of Kulanu and wish him the best of luck going forward.”
Kahlon has yet to suggest a candidate from his party to take over for Gallant as construction and housing minister.
A statement by Gallant said, “In recent years, I have been privileged to serve the Israeli public as a minister and as a cabinet member, following 35 years of military service. I see myself as continuing to contribute to the State of Israel, especially in the area in which I have dealt all my life—the defense and security of the country and its residents.
“I would like to thank my friend, Kulanu leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and the members of the Kulanu Party for the cooperation and joint leadership with respect to the construction and housing sector, and for their economic and social activities on behalf of the Israeli public.”
Gallant’s exit from Kulanu further rattled the party, which is currently experiencing a wave of departures: On Tuesday, MK Rachel Azaria announced that she was leaving the party, which, she said, “has moved to the right.”
MK Eli Alaluf announced last week that he would not be vying for a Knesset seat in April’s elections, and MK Michael Oren, who serves as deputy minister for public diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office, also announced that he would not be seeking a spot on the party’s list.
Oren did not announce whether he was exiting politics. Political analysts said that he may join another party, perhaps the Likud.
Kulanu does not hold internal elections to decide its Knesset list. The roster is determined by Kahlon and the party’s executive committee.