Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon Wants Unity Government

Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon aims for Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union to join and ‘help advance the economy.’

Emil Salman

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says he will work to form a unity government immediately after the state budget is passed this week in a bid to boost the economy.

“We will work from next week to broaden the government,” Kahlon told a meeting of Knesset members from his centrist Kulanu party. “It’s time that other partners came into the coalition and helped advance the economy.”

Speaking Monday, he added, “To sit on the sidelines is fine, to criticize is good, writing is nice, but we have to work with joint forces. At this time, Israelis want to see their leaders united. We will be the pioneers in promoting a unity government.”

The treasury is counting on 3% economic growth next year to make its 2016 budget meet spending and deficit forecasts. While tax revenues have been climbing this year, sluggish growth was making some economists doubt whether the pace could be sustained.

Meanwhile, members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the opposition Zionist Union have said for weeks that a unity government could only be discussed once the budget was passed.

But Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog has strongly denied claims of understandings between him Netanyahu that would clinch a grand coalition.

“Totally ridiculous,” “Imaginary,” and “Nothing of the sort” were some of the terms he used to rebuff such rumors in the Knesset in recent days. Other Zionist Union members said the rumors were largely coming from Likud, which allegedly was trying to erode Herzog’s image.

According to a senior Likud official, Netanyahu has considered making another centrist party, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, a senior coalition partner with Lapid as foreign minister.

But the official said Lapid as foreign minister could be a threat before the next election. Opposition leader Herzog, on the other hand, would help Netanyahu cooperate with the international community without overshadowing him.

“When Likud MKs tell us they already know which portfolios we’ve been promised and about government guidelines that will be changed, it’s hard to believe it’s just spin,” one Zionist Union MK said.

According to another, “We’ve been operating in a suspicious and unhealthy atmosphere for a while now. Despite the denials, no one believes that no attempts are being made to consider joining Netanyahu’s coalition.”

As a third put it, “Even if we wanted to join the government, right now Netanyahu has no real reason to include us and split with Habayit Hayehudi,” the right-wing party led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. “It’s not feasible at this stage.”