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Ofir Akunis

(1973 - )

Ofir Akunis was born in Tel Aviv on May 28, 1973, and educated at Herzliya Hebrew High School between 1987 and 1991. He served as a youth correspondent for the weekly Ma'ariv LaNoar magazine. During his national service, he served as a military correspondent for the Chief Education Officer of the Education and Youth Corps. After the army, he served as music editor of the radio program "Youth Club" on Reshet Gimmel, and on other programs. He completed his bachelor's degree in political science and international relations.

In January 1996, he joined the Likud party and began working in the information department at Metzudat Ze'ev in Tel Aviv. In June 1996, when Binyamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister after winning the elections, Ofir Akunis served as Deputy Media Advisor to the Prime Minister. He subsequently became spokesman for the Likud party. In 2003 he won the Menachem Begin Award for his thesis "Morals and Realism in Israeli Politics". He later worked as a spokesman for the Minister of Justice, and in 2004 was appointed Media Advisor for Netanyahu in the Ministry of Finance. He continued to serve as his advisor until 2008 before being appointed as Deputy Director of Communications and Information for the Likud.

Prior to the 2009 elections, Akunis participated in the primaries for the Likud and reached 28th place. He submitted a petition to the election committee of the Likud together with other candidates. On December 12, 2008, the petition was accepted and subsequently was promoted to the 26th place on the list, which is reserved for the Tel Aviv district. Post factum, it turned out that if the petition was not accepted, he would not have been elected to the Knesset, as the Likud won 27 mandates in the elections. Akunis was subsequently moved up to twenty-sixth place, and entered the Knesset as Likud won 27 seats.

During his first two years as a Knesset member, Ofir Akunis served as Chairman of the Economic Committee. He was also appointed Deputy Speaker of the House. After the flotilla to Gaza, Ofir Akunis confronted the Knesset members of the Balad party several times, and even announced several times that as the Likud's representative to the Central Elections Committee, he would demand the disqualification of their list and the disqualification of MK Hanin Zuabi, who participated in the flotilla. According to the statistics of the Knesset Ofir Akunis is considered a very active member, both in the Knesset plenum and in the committees in which he participates.

During his service as Chairman of the Economic Committee, Ofir Akunis collaborated with the Minister of Communications Moshe Kahlon in opening the cellular communications market to competition, including supporting a decrease in link fees and adding virtual operators and new companies to this market. He promoted the consumer cash refund law and initiated the reverse interest law. In the television sector, he promoted legislation regulating the transition from franchises to licenses and initiated the increase of channels broadcast free of charge by the "Idan+" DDT broadcasting service. He objected to the Ministry of Finance's demand to increase radio and television fees, which actually lead to its decrease.

In the elections held for the Likud’s list of candidates for the 19th Knesset, Akunis was elected to the 18th place, placed in the 28th place in the joint LikudYisrael Beiteinu list, and was once again elected to serve in the Knesset. In March 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Akunis as Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, acting as the liaison between the government and the Knesset with the portfolio of the Advancement of Young People and Students. 

On December 9, 2014, Akunis was appointed Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection. Akunis replaced Amir Peretz, who resigned from his post as Minister. The appointment, made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, came a week after the massive crude oil spill in Israel's Arava region. Akunis said that "it is the Deputy Minister's intention to prioritize treatment of the ecological disaster in the south and to do all that is necessary to prevent the spread of the crude oil, and to prevent a health and environmental disaster." Akunis ordered crews to raise the side walls of the dams that have been built in the Arava to prevent flooding. Thanks to the infrastructure that has already been built in the area, the risk that the oil will reach the Gulf of Eilat significantly dropped. Akunis instructed that the reserve remain closed as long as high values of pollutants are still registered in air quality tests. At the end of December, the government approved a NIS 17 million Environment Ministry plan to rehabilitate. According to Akunis, the NIS 17 million program will serve to treat the soils contaminated by the spill as well as help restore the wildlife populations damaged over the course of the event. As part of the plan, a special team will be appointed to evaluate the environmental impact of various Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company activities on both dry land and beaches. The approved plan also involves opening a closed Eilat beach on EAPC-owned property to the city’s residents and visitors. In January 2015, Air quality tests found that there has been a 90% reduction of pollution in Evrona.

For his own request, Akunis was appointed by Binyamin Netanyahu to lead the ‘Computer for Every Child’ project. He said that “This is one of the most important social projects taking place in Israel,” and added, "that reducing the technological gaps is a critical element in reducing social disparities.” Akunis promised that he will work to “promote, strengthen and upgrade” the project. In 2013, the project had been upgraded from "Computer for Every Child" to "Tablet for Every Child," and tablets were distributed to children of Sderot, Ofakim, Lod, etc. In October 2014, Akunis announced that the government had allocated NIS 1.8 million to provide tablets for each and every child living in the south.

Prior to the 2015 elections, Akunis participated in the primaries for the Likud and reached 15th place. On May 15, 2015, Akunis was sworn in as a Minister in the 34th Government of Israel.

MK Akunis has mentioned many times that he operates in the spirit of the late Menachem Begin. When commencing his function as Chairman of the Economic Committee, he committed himself to a "free economy with social sensitivity", which is the basis of Likud's outlook. He supports the concept of decreasing direct and indirect taxes imposed on the public. Akunis is also of the opinion that one of the ways to reduce prices is to abolish monopolies and duopolies, break up centralizations, and encourage competition in the Israeli market, also by reducing customs fees on imported products. His views on political and security issues place Akunis in the right wing of the Likud: he is opposed to the formula "two states for two nations" and perceives the Palestinians as an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In the past, he has proposed a 20-year long-term intermediate settlement, so that "the Palestinians born now will not be educated on the narrative of the right of return to Acre, Ramla, Lod, Jaffa and Ashkelon". Akunis is opposed to relinquishing the Occupied Territories and supports settlement in all parts of the country "with no disparity between the Golan, the Galil, the Negev or Yehuda and Shomron". Akunis believes that Israel has the historical and moral right to Western Israel, according to the teachings of Jabotinsky, "All Mine". MK Akunis supports the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States but mentioned more than once that Israel is an independent State in its decisions. He has expressed support for the peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt.

He was appointed Minister for Innovation – Science and Technolog in the 37th government.

Ofir Akunis is married to Adi and the father of two children. He is a resident of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Sources: Paz, Shelly . "On the cusp," The Jerusalem Post, (February 5, 2009).
Mualem, Mazal. "Feiglin won't appeal Likud bumping him down to 36th on party ticket". Haaretz (December 12, 2008).
Lis, Jonathan. “Netanyahu names Ya'alon as Defense Minister, Sa'ar as Interior Minister,” Haaretz (March 17, 2013).
Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Ziri, Danielle. “Akunis to lead PC for every child,” Jerusalem Post (April 25, 2013).
Dvorin, Tova. “Akunis, Netanyahu present tablets to 94 children,” Israel National News (January 31, 2014).

Photo: Shay Hayak (PR) [CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.