Netanyahu Offers Kahlon to Stay on as Finance Minister if He Rejoins Likud

From the far right, Rafi Peretz to be education minister, while Netanyahu hopes Bezalel Smotrich will agree to an expanded housing porfolio as coalition talks continue

File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend a ceremony for the signing of a housing agreement in Sderot, Israel, April 9, 2018.
Amir Cohen/Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered Moshe Kahlon to continue as finance minister in the new government if the Kulanu leader rejoins the Likud party that he left four years ago, political sources said.

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Also, Netanyahu’s Likud party seeks an alternative to Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu among the junior coalition partners and is trying to persuade a member of Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan to break away and give the right 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

A number of potential Gantz “dropouts” have been identified, but thus far there has been no clear proof that such a scenario could play out.

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Kahlon is striving to get Kulanu legislators good positions in the cabinet and Knesset committees, but Netanyahu reportedly has not been quick to respond. The negotiations are expected to continue.

Kahlon was a Knesset member for Likud from 2003 to 2013, making a mark as communications minister toward the end of that tenure. In 2015 he formed his center-right Kulanu party.

Netanyahu’s offer for the new government was made at a meeting late last week before the long holiday weekend that marked the last day of Passover.

It was Netanyahu and Kahlon’s first talks since Likud tied Kahol Lavan at 35 seats at the top in the April 9 general election. Among parties that qualified for seats, Kulanu tied for last at four seats.

This coming week Netanyahu is expected to meet with the Union of Right-Wing Parties. For now Netanyahu has no intentions of naming one of that alliance’s leaders, Bezalel Smotrich, justice minister.

He has already decided to name another leader of the alliance, Rafi Peretz, education minister, and will try to persuade Smotrich to take an expanded housing portfolio, political sources said. The Union of Right-Wing Parties, which won five seats on April 9, has asked for the justice and education ministries.

Likud intends to hear all the demands of its expected coalition partners before announcing its own demands.

The bill on drafting young Orthodox-Jewish men into the army, the main obstacle in handing out cabinet posts, is far from resolution. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which won five seats in the election, says it will not bend regarding this legislation.

Likud will hold coalition talks Sunday with the ultra-Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism and Shas. Negotiations were not held during the intermediate days of Passover, when many ultra-Orthodox Jews do not work.