Israeli Finance Minister Kahlon Pledges Softer Version of Nation-state Bill

He also says Netanyahu approached him about a joint ticket in the next election.

Emil Salman

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon made clear Monday his Kulanu party would block the harsher version of the so-called nation-state bill put forward by MK Avi Dichter (Likud).

Kahlon also committed to oppose the justice minister’s initiative to change the composition of the committee that appoints judges. He also confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approached him about running on a joint ticket with Likud in the next election.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu put off a session of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on the nation-state issue; the committee will instead discuss the matter on January 1. On Monday, Kahlon said he it was he who got the Dichter version off the agenda.

The bill would define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, but in a version put forward by politicians to the right of Netanyahu, the courts could subordinate the state’s democratic identity to its Jewish identity if those two values clashed.

“I founded Kulanu to avoid returning to Likud,” Kahlon said, adding that the nation-state bill would not advance through the Knesset until all understandings were reached with all parties in the governing coalition.

“It won’t happen without an agreement. We said at the outset of the coalition talks that there would be no changes to this issue without our approval. Just as we honor our coalition partners on other issues, they must honor us here. So the bill was taken off the agenda at our request.”

Kulanu officials said they would work to thwart Dichter’s version of the bill, even though two Kulanu MKs, Tali Ploskov and Eli Cohen, had signed it. According to sources in Kulanu, the two MKs signed the bill a few months ago as a gesture to Dichter, before the party’s position on the bill was formulated.

Kahlon said he would also strive to thwart Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s initiative to include more politicians on the Judicial Appointments Committee at the expense of Supreme Court representatives. Kahlon spoke about the issue Sunday with Supreme Court President Miriam Naor.

“There will be no change to the Judicial Appointments Committee as long as we’re here,” Kahlon said. “We will continue to safeguard the committee as well as the Supreme Court’s standing. The court is the last stronghold for the weak. I also said that back when I was head of the Likud Central Committee.”

At a press briefing, Kahlon also spoke about efforts to expand the governing coalition and the possibility of running on a joint ticket with Likud in the next election.

“The prime minister has approached me a few times,” Kahlon said. “I don’t know if that will be feasible. I founded Kulanu to avoid returning to Likud.”

Kahlon also said there were “serious difficulties due to the size of the government.” As he put it, “We see that in terms of world rankings. Political instability ensures that our ranking doesn’t go up.”