Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon on Monday offered no further explanation of his startling decision not to run in the January election, standing by his original statement from the day before that he simply needed a break from politics.
During a meeting of Likud's Knesset faction, Kahlon, one of the most popular politicians in the party and among the public and media, said: "I have served for 10 years in the Knesset, and four of these were with the government coalition. Every night I went to sleep thinking about the residents of the State of Israel, and I woke up with its citizens. I did my utmost to act on behalf of sectors of the population. We initiated laws, reforms and consumer revolutions for the benefit of citizens."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered the Likud meeting together with Kahlon, and said he was trying to talk him into changing his mind. "I can understand his desires," said Netanyahu, "but I haven't given up with my attempts to persuade him to stay [in politics]. He belongs with us here, leading the state, implementing important reforms."
Kahlon, who also holds the Welfare and Social Affairs portfolio but is best known for opening up the cellphone market this year as communications minister, had words of praise for Netanyahu. "Were it not for the cooperation and support of the prime minister, whose path I followed, we would not have succeeded in accomplishing what we accomplished. We needed a prime minister like this one in order to allow consumers in the state to enjoy reduced prices, and free competition."
Kahlon stressed that he does not intend to leave his party. "I've announced that I won't campaign for a Knesset spot, but I am not quitting Likud," he said. "I look ahead with hope, pride and satisfaction." Kahlon pointed to areas where reforms needed to be instituted, pointing out the needs of demobilized soldiers, the middle class and residents of development towns.
"I believe in the value of a free economy," he said, adding that it "creates jobs and promotes advanced technology. ... This is the policy outlook of Likud and the prime minister. This is the real way to effect social change." He said the Netanyahu government was the "most socially concerned government I have seen, at least in my 10 years of work here [in the Knesset]," and that a new Netanyahu government "will continue with social reforms."