Netanyahu to Appoint Kahlon as Israel's Next Finance Minister

Announcement fulfills PM's pre-election pledge; Netanyahu also met Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, in effort to assemble coalition.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Moshe Kahlon speaks with PM Benjamin Netanyahu during a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Oct. 15, 2012.
Moshe Kahlon speaks with PM Benjamin Netanyahu during a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Oct. 15, 2012.Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he would appoint Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon as Israel's next finance minister.

Kahlon and Netanyahu met Tuesday after year-and-a-half rift and Netanyahu confirmed that he will fulfill his pre-election promise regarding the treasury.

Kahlon’s Kulanu party refused Tuesday to say officially what demands it plans to present in coalition negotiations, however, a source in the party said it is likely to demand a third of the number of ministerial slots and official positions allocated to Likud in the emerging government, since Kulanu has ten members of Knesset, one-third of the 30 garnered by Likud in last week’s election.

Party sources suggested this would amount to three ministerial portfolios: the finance ministry would be granted – as agreed – to Kahlon, General (res.) Yoav Galant would be a candidate for either internal security or intelligence minister. Either of these jobs would include a position for Galant in the inner cabinet, strengthening Kahlon’s position in the coalition.

According to the sources, the third ministerial portfolio could go to either Avi Gabay, a Kahlon associate who was not on the party’s Knesset slate, or the party’s number three, Eli Alaluf. Gabay served as CEO of telecommunications giant Bezeq for six years during Kahlon’s tenure as Communications Minister. Since then, the pair have retained close ties.

Alternatively, the third portfolio could go to Alaluf, an Israel Prize laureate and former head of the anti-poverty commission. The sources said this would depend on which portfolio was granted to the party.

Kahlon is expected to appoint Shai Babad, former director-general of the Second Broadcasting Authorityas director general of the Finance Ministry.

Babad resigned his position at the Second Authority for months ago to accept the 11th slot on the Kulanu list however he will not be a Knesset member. Babad formerly served as the CEO of shipping company Zim.

It is still not clear if Kulanu will insist on its demand to hold the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee. Likud sources told Haaretz that some discussion is underway of appointing United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni to that position, in exchange for an understanding with Kahlon regarding the advancement of reforms he plans.

Netanyahu and Kahlon met over dinner Tuesday. Earlier, Netanyahu continued his efforts to build a coalition combining his Likud Party with factions from the National Camp and the right-wing parties, also meeting with Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu.

Sofa Landver of Yisrael Beitanu is expected to be appointed the party’s second minister in the next government, retaining the Immigrant Absorption portfolio. Landver’s party colleague, Orly Levi-Abekasis, is unlikely to be appointed a minister.

On Monday, Netanyahu met with Naftali Bennett, chief of Habayit Hayehudi.

In the March 17 election, Likud received 30 mandates in the 120-member Knesset. Netanyahu thus needs a minimum of 61 seats to govern. The voters gave 8 seats to Habayit Hayehudi, 6 to Yisrael Beiteinu and 10 to Kulanu.

Netanyahu's meetings with the faction leaders are preliminary, with the official opening of coalition negotiations expected on Wednesday.

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