Netanyahu's Likud Faces Serious Competition as Breakaway Minister's Party Steps Up

'Kahlon’s party is one big headache for Netanyahu,' says prominent Likud MK.

Nir Kafri

A party formed by former Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon would damage Likud considerably in the run-up to the next elections, said major Likud activists, including one of its most prominent Knesset members. Kahlon, a popular Likud minister, who stepped down in late 2012, indicated last week that he would return to politics to form a “political framework” after the security situation stabilizes.

“Kahlon’s party is one big headache for Netanyahu,” the MK said. “On the day after the war, the prime minister will find that quite a few of his field operatives and Central Committee members intend to go over to Kahlon’s party and work for him. The day Kahlon announces the party officially and the activists start to leave will be a severe blow to the ruling party’s morale just before the elections.

“While Kahlon’s party will not damage Likud severely, it could take up to about four seats from the Likud and also attract quite a few Central Committee members and activists,” said the MK.

Likud officials mentioned the names of several key figures among the party activists who might go over to Kahlon’s party. One is Hevel Modi’in Regional Council head Shimon Susan, who is considered particularly close to Kahlon. Susan denied those claims Tuesday, though he did not completely reject the possibility that he would work together with Kahlon in the future. “I’m in Likud,” he said. “I’ve been in Likud since I was 14 years old, and I have not made a different decision,” he told Haaretz.

It is doubtful whether the move will be reminiscent of the mass exodus from Likud that took place when Kadima was established in 2005. At that time, roughly one-third of the party members, along with many vote contractors and field operatives, rallied behind Kadima founder Ariel Sharon, causing a major shakeup in Likud.

Kahlon’s party would be a centrist one that eschews political machinations and vote contractors, and has a clear socioeconomic agenda. “If Kahlon wanted to establish Likud 2, he would have stayed in Likud,” a close associate of his said. “Kahlon engaged in political machinations for years, using them to move up in Likud. He got fed up with that and is establishing a clean party.”

Kahlon intends to submit his list about two months before the elections to maintain his unsullied public image for as long as possible.