Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz is expected to run next month for the chairmanship of the Likud Central Committee, one of the most important and powerful political positions in the ruling party. Katz informed Likud ministers of his decision, and he is expected to formally announce his candidacy in the next few days.
Katz’s candidacy is expected to thoroughly shake up the race for the post, which opened up after former minister Danny Danon was appointed as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Katz has major support from other party bigwigs, including Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, and is expected to garner the support of former minister Gideon Sa’ar, who may well run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the leadership of Likud before the next elections.
Other candidates for the chairmanship include coalition whip MK Tzachi Hanegbi and MK David Amsalem, who enjoys the support of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Senior Citizens Affairs Minister Gila Gamliel.
“The Central Committee chairman can hold the prime minister by the balls,” said a Likud minster to Haaretz. “He can force the date for elections of the chairman of the Likud and its candidate for prime minister on Netanyahu, and in doing so, aid, for example, Gideon Sa’ar if he decides to run for the position. A strong chairman of the Central Committee can send Netanyahu home by passing a decision that will limit the number of terms the leader of the Likud can serve,” said the minister.
Deputy coalition whip MK Miki Zohar (Likud) was behind the initiative for Katz to run, which he proposed to him a few days ago. Katz said he would consider it, and then asked Yisrael Katz if he would support him before making his decision.
A senior Likud figure involved in Katz’s campaign told Haaretz on Saturday that most Likud MKs would support Katz and not Amsalem, who is considered to have a great amount of power among the Likud grassroots supporters and activists. “The Likud MKs are worried that Amsalem will threaten their status if he moves up and becomes chairman of the Central Committee. Katz doesn’t threaten anyone. He is already a minister. We can assume that Bibi, even if he is not enthusiastic, will agree to promote this move,” he said.
“Many ministers and MKs have already made it clear to Katz that they support his candidacy and are committed to him,” said the senior Likud politician, and added that many will switch sides to support him.