Kahol Lavan Lawmaker Says Netanyahu Associate Offered Him the Defense Portfolio if He Defected

Likud calls Ram Ben Barak's claim a 'baseless joke' with no legal feasibility; earlier this week, Labor chairman said the PM gave him the same offer

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Ram Ben Barak in 2017
Ram Ben Barak in 2017Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A Kahol Lavan lawmaker said Saturday that an associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered him the role of defense minister if he defected from his party, which posed the biggest threat to the premier in the run up to the April 9 election. 

Ram Ben Barak, who is a former Mossad deputy chief, said that the offer came before Netanyahu failed to form a coalition earlier this week, leading the Knesset to vote to dissolve itself and send Israel to a new election slated to take place on September 17.

Speaking at a convention in central Israel, Ben Barak said that in addition to the defense portfolio, the associate promised him the role of acting prime minister in any case Netanyahu is unavailable as well as to be charge of negotiations with the Palestinians.

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"I said there's no way, and I don't believe anything wouldn't come of it," Ben Barak explained. "I'm not naïve, and even if it were to happen, there was no way I would betray my values."

The lawmaker also called the premier the "national divider," slamming him for attacking Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman. 

In response to Ben Barak's comments, Netanyahu's Likud party said that "there's a new phenomenon as of late, anyone who wishes to overinflate their worth says they received some proposition, they should learn the Knesset bylaws before their next fabrication."

The statement called Ben Barak's claim a "baseless joke," and added that neither Netanyahu nor anyone close to him offered the lawmaker anything, and that "a short inquiry would have found that such offers have no legal feasibility."

Netanyahu's mandate to form a government expired on Wednesday at midnight. His negotiations were fraught as result of a disagreement between Lieberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties over a bill to draft yeshiva students into the Israeli army.

Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay revealed earlier this week that a few hours before Netanyahu's mandate to attempt to form a coalition expired, he offered him to join the coalition and become defense minister.

Despite committing not to sit in a Netanyahu government before the election under any circumstances, Gabbay considered the proposal. However, his fellow party members Itzik Shmuli, Amir Peretz, Shelly Yacimovitch and Stav Shaffir opposed. Gabbay eventually wrote on his Twitter account that following deliberations, his faction members decided to reject Netanyahu's offer.

On Thursday, Gabbay told Channel 12 News he hadn't lied to his voters in considering Netanyahu's proposal after promising he would never consider such a move.

"I know one thing today," he said, "I won't say such a thing again," arguing that "you never know which circumstances you'll find yourself in."

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