Israeli Finance Minister: Coalition Can't Function Unless Major Change Is Made

Moshe Kahlon says he is pressuring Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog to form a unity government, saying the government's second year will be much more difficult than the first year.

Moshe Kahlon, March 30, 2016.
TheMarker screenshot

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said the coalition will find it very difficult to continue functioning with its present composition of only 61 Knesset members. Kahlon told a closed-to-the-public conference in Tel Aviv Wednesday that he is pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) to establish a unity government.

"There is no doubt that the government's second year will be much more difficult than the first year," Kahlon told the Tel Aviv University Business-Academic Club. 

"Whether we will agree to a two-year budget or not - let's put that aside. The situation in the coalition is very, very difficult. We must say honestly, for two months already we have not brought controversial laws to the Knesset. When we need a majority, there are two Likud MKs who do not want to come for the votes, and some other MK who is mad and another Knesset member from here and another MK from there. A week ago, we lost an important vote. Before that we lost an important vote It is impossible to continue this way," said Kahlon.

The audience included dozens of the most important business executives in Israel as well as senior faculty from the university, and Kahlon told them the coalition can only continue if a major change is made in its composition.  "I want and am pushing for such a significant change."

"I am constantly putting pressure on [Netanyahu] to expand the government." Kahlon said he is pressuring Herzog too, but MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) is not interested in joining the government. " Maybe you know why. You hear what noises [MK Avigdor] Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) is making. So the potential is the Labor Party. I'm pushing. I'm making an effort and I believe in it too.  I have said until now we can make do with 61 MKs in the coalition.  Now I think it will be very difficult."

Kahlon said a unity government is necessary because of the "social situation in the country," and other issues that require a broad basis for agreement. The situation is unpleasant and uncomfortable, but a unity government could improve the atmosphere and sentiment in the country until the next elections, he said.

When asked whether the time has come for Netanyahu to leave after four terms and be replaced by "new faces," Kahlon answered: "You want to see my face? Next question."

Kahlon also mentioned the recent survey published in Haaretz which showed a party including himself, former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former minister Gideon Sa'ar would win the greatest number of Knesset seats in an election held today. Kahlon hinted that running on a joint slate with Ashkenazi is not very realistic.

"I know Gabi Ashkenazi. We have not spoken recently. Certainly not when they did the survey." He said he is not involved in any joint election bid with Ashkenazi.

Kahlon wants to continue and have his Kulanu party focus on social and economic issues. "Everyone else have a place in Labor or Likud. Our [party] slate is excellent."