Ex-minister Kahlon Planning Return to Politics - but Not With Likud

Minister who took on the cellphone companies and won says that a caring, compassionate Likud no longer exists.

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Moshe Kahlon, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset.
Moshe Kahlon, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset. Credit: Emil Salman

Senior Likud officials Tuesday attacked former Likud MK and minister Moshe Kahlon for saying in an interview that the Likud "no longer exists today, and I struggle to accept some of the things taking place within the party.”

Kahlon also said, in an interview with Yediot Ahronot newspaper, that he had never seen eye-to-eye with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on social issues and that he intended returning to politics, though he had not yet decided in what way.

The former minister, who garnered public popularity by revolutionizing cellular phone pricing as communications minister, created a political stir when he declined to participate in the Likud list in the 2013 elections.

"Kahlon forgets that he was a minister with a senior social portfolio, welfare minister, in the government that he is now attacking," said a senior Likud official. "He himself is guilty of a lot of the things that he is now criticizing in the Likud."

The Likud official said that Kahlon was now attacking the Likud to build up a support base at the expense of the party. In the past, he added, Kahlon had praised the social activities of Netanyahu and his government.

The official also took exception to Kalhlon's statement that the Likud had been taken over by its radical right wing. "He's hiding the fact that he himself had a large role in that, including his appointment of prominent right winger Michael Foa as his personal adviser when he was welfare minister."

“The question is what is Likud?” Kahlon, 54, asked in the interview. “Likud for me was really the Likud of Menachem Begin, who also represented a social vision: reducing disparities between rich and poor, neighborhood renewal, social rehabilitation, and education reform. It was a pragmatic Likud that knew how to make peace when needed. That is Likud for me. But that Likud no longer exists today, and I struggle to accept some of the things taking place within the party.”

“Likud is a way of life, Likud is social awareness, Likud is compassion and carrying for the weak,” Kahlon went on. “But Likud is no longer there, it has strayed from the path. In recent years Likud’s social banner has been dismantled… for the sake of political-security gains.”

"I still hope he finds his way back to Likud," said Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, in response to Kahlon’s comments.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) told Army Radio that he appreciated Kahlon. “I welcome his return to politics regardless of the framework in which he runs for office.”

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