The appointment of former Social Welfare Minister Meir Cohen will come as a political blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Cohen was born in Essaouira, Morocco in 1964 and emigrated to Dimona, Israel at the age of seven. The “Moroccan immigrant” became mayor of Dimona in 2003, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The Moroccan-Israeli has had a long career in politics, having served as a Member of Knesset and as Social Welfare Minister. He also served as Deputy Speaker of the 20th Knesset and chaired a committee on healthcare.
Cohen is a member of the center Yesh Atid “There Is a Future” party, part of the Blue and White coalition.
The centrist Blue and White coalition currently holds 33 of 120 seats in the Knesset, while Netanyahu’s Likud party holds 45.
Edelstein’s exit and Cohen’s appointment will come as a political blow to Netanyahu, both paving the way for the Blue and White coalition and other opposition parties in the Knesset to push through legislation banning any citizen facing indictment from serving as prime minister.
Netanyahu is currently under indictment on corruption charges. His trial, due to take place this month, has been pushed back to May amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though Morocco maintains frozen diplomatic relations with Israel as part of its historic solidarity with the cause of the Palestinian people, Israel is home to the second largest population of Moroccan diaspora in the world.
A report from the Ministry of Moroccans Residing Abroad in 2016 found that 10% of the Israeli population have Moroccan ancestry.
Morocco’s Jewish population is dwindling, but Morocco values its multi-faith cultural heritage.
The 2019 US State Department country report on human rights noted that the Moroccan constitution recognizes the Jewish community as part of the country’s population and that Jews are guaranteed the freedom to practice their religious affairs and generally live in safety.