Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed several cabinet ministers after being required to divest himself of all ministerial portfolios in the wake of corruption charges against him.
Netanyahu does not have to resign as prime minister, though questions remain as to whether he will be allowed to form a new government if he wins the mandate to do so in upcoming March 2 elections.
Netanyahu appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely of his Likud Party as Diaspora Affairs minister; David Bitan of Likud as Agriculture Minister; Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen as Construction Minister; and current Construction Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton of the Kulanu Party as Welfare Minister.
Last week he appointed Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman as Health Minister in a controversial move, since Litzman remains under investigation for allegedly blocking the extradition of an accused child abuser.
Bitan also has legal problems. Police in March recommended he be indicted on multiple corruption charges, including bribery, fraud and money laundering for crimes that took place from 2011 to 2017 during his term as Rishon Lezion deputy mayor and as a Knesset member.
Hotovely said Sunday that she would “work to enhance the ties between Israel and all Jewish communities and denominations of Judaism around the world.”
Couple drowns in flooded Tel Aviv elevator
A young couple drowned in an elevator in southern Tel Aviv amid widespread flooding amid heavy rainfall in central Israel.
Dean Shoshani and Stav Harari, both 25, died Saturday after rain flooded an underground parking lot elevator, according to reports. The elevator doors were locked due to an electrical short caused by the water.
Rescue crews used scuba gear to reach the elevator and remove the couple. They both were declared dead at a nearby hospital. Neighbours who heard the couple banging on the walls of the elevator calling for help said it took emergency crews more than a half hour to arrive on the scene.
Videos posted on social media showed water nearly covering the tops of cars on Tel Aviv streets, as well as people using surf boards and swimming in the streets.
The Tel Aviv municipality said the area got 20 percent of its annual average rainfall in a few hours on Saturday.
Flood warnings also were issued in the Judean Desert and the Jordan Valley over the weekend.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement at the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting expressed “deep shock over the tragic deaths” in the Tel Aviv elevator. He called a meeting today “with all of the professional elements in order to learn lessons so that such things do not recur.”
Rain continued to inundate central Israel on Sunday morning but slowed down later in the day. More rain is expected in the middle of the week.