Moshe Kahlon, Minister of Communications and Social Affairs: In a Cabinet of Kahlons, the Real Deal

The rising star put his stamp on telecom and became a Likud poster boy. But as social affairs minister, he has yet to cut his teeth on issues of social import.

Moshe Kahlon is the prime minister's favorite minister. In January, when the Labor Party left the coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu gave Kahlon, who already held the communications portfolio, the social affairs Ministry, taking it from Labor MK Isaac Herzog.

In June, when the cottage cheese boycott began, the prime minister called on members of the government to take an example from Kahlon's creativity and initiative in bringing down prices. "Be Kahlons," he advised them.

Moshe Kahlon - Hagay Frid - 05092011
Hagay Frid

There are some in the prime minister's bureau who believe Netanyahu is prepping Kahlon to take over for Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, should the prime minister decide to fire him.

Kahlon , 51 is married with three children and lives in the Carmelia neighborhood of Haifa. He was born and raised in Givat Olga in a family with seven children. His brother Yaakov Kahlon is senior deputy mayor of Jerusalem. Moshe Kahlon was first elected to the 16th Knesset, and at the beginning of 2006, when Tzachi Hanegbi left the Likud, Netanyahu appointed him chairman of the party.

In the Likud's internal elections for the 17th Knesset held in March 2006, against the backdrop of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Kahlon was voted to first place and appeared in the third slot of the party's list for the Knesset. In the primaries for the current Knesset, he was elected to fifth place and appeared in the sixth slot of the Likud list for the Knesset elections.

Kahlon's reputation is rather bigger than the ministry he heads, which has been on the chopping block in the past. The Communications Ministry's budget for 2011 is a mere NIS 50.6 million, well below most other ministries. A jump to the Finance Ministry would be a hefty promotion for Kahlon.

Kahlon was appointed Social Affairs Minister in January and he is supposedly considered a "social" figure, though he has yet to offer any ideas about progressing social issues, even as the issue has come to the forefront since mid-July. During the summer's protests he has offered only boilerplate messages of support, but no concrete suggestions.

Don't expect him to save our pensions

It's unlikely Kahlon will fight for increasing the welfare budgets that his ministry is in charge of, or to increase the National Insurance Institute's stipends for children, the unemployed and single mothers. Nor will he likely come out to save shrinking pensions being ravaged by the ills of economic concentration.

As communications minister, Kahlon has carried out important and far-reaching changes in the local communications market, with the aim of increasing competition and bringing down prices.

It was he who told the cellular companies: "You have earned billions but the party is over now."

In December 2010, he completed the renewed Second Televison and Radio Broadcasting Authority Law according to which the franchisees that currently broadcast on commercial television will move over to a licensing system and, starting in January 2013, others will be allowed in as well.

Kahlon has also seen to the rise of operating licenses for virtual cellular providers (MVNO ), connection fees have been lowered by 74 percent, an end has been put to dependency on telephone suppliers, and a tender was held for two additional cellular operators.

In July, it was announced that the fines for leaving a cellular provider were to be canceled this October. There is still room for improvement, though. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, published in August 2010, places Israel as the fourth most expensive place to own a cell phone among OECD countries.

Kahlon will continue the cellular revolution next year with the aim of intensifying competition and bringing down prices. He plans to increase competition in the field of broadband access to the Internet.

His social affairs plans, if there are any, are less concrete. One idea he has is to turn the post office into a commercial bank for the poor, with all the services therein, albeit deeply discounted for the disadvantaged. In this he is already running into opposition from the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel.