Likud May Lose Rivlin's Knesset Seat to Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu

President-elect Rivlin’s replacement may leave the Knesset to become an ambassador, giving Likud the same number of Knesset seats as Lapid's Yesh Atid.

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Carmel Shama-Hacohen
Carmel Shama-HacohenCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, who assumed President-elect Reuven Rivlin’s Knesset seat on Tuesday, could be appointed Israel’s ambassador to OECD-UNESCO and the European Council in as soon as two weeks, costing his Likud party the seat.

Shama-Hacohen confirmed to Haaretz that he is a potential candidate for the position but said it depends on decisions yet to be made within the Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee, as well as his own deliberations and family considerations.

Shama-Hacohen’s appointment as ambassador would require him to resign as an MK, and his seat would be filled by former MK Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu. The change would not only deprive Likud of its status as the largest party, tying it with Yesh Atid with 19 Knesset seats, but would also empower its electoral ally Yisrael Beiteinu, giving it 12 seats, rather than its current 11.

Shama-Hacohen’s possible move to ambassador was engineered by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to make room in the Knesset for Miller, his longtime associate, who was left out of the faction in the latest election. Lieberman approached Shama-Hacohen with the idea in January, after Shama-Hacohen failed in a run for mayor of Ramat Gan, and before anyone knew Rivlin would be elected president.

Shama-Hacohen was confirmed as a Likud MK on Tuesday and will be formally sworn in next Monday. In the latest Likud primary, Shama-Hacohen was targeted by other party officials and pushed down the party list.

On Tuesday, Shama-Hacohen said he intends to change the face of his party, returning its focus to social and economic issues. But he said switching parties was also an option. “I’ll consider joining [former Likud minister Moshe] Kahlon’s [future] party if I don’t manage to make a difference on the inside through Likud. Any party that agrees with my social and economic positions would be an option,” he said.

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