Moshe Kahlon Attacks Benny Gantz in Speech Launching Kulanu Campaign

Finance minister calls main Netanyahu rival 'privileged,' attacks 'inexperienced stars' on Israel's election

Moshe Kahlon launched the Kulanu campaign in Ashkelon, January 30, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

Moshe Kahlon launched the campaign of his party, Kulanu, on Wednesday in a speech that focused on his achievements and sacrifices, lashing out against the "privileged" and "the inexperienced stars" of Israel's election.

The modest choice of location for the 25-minute speech – Ashkelon's mayor is a Kulanu member – the cheap catering, and the Middle Eastern music were meant to differentiate Kahlon and Kulanu from political rival Benny Gantz.

In his speech, Kahlon criticized Gantz as "privileged." On Tuesday, a Kulanu member took to Twitter and described Gantz's Hosen L'Yisrael party as "privileged Ashkenazi [European Jewish] with a pet Mizrahi [Middle Eastern Jew]."  

On the subject of allying Kulanu with other parties, Kahlon said that it is an option, but only with those who are willing to put people before politics. "Bring me a social bloc…a bloc that cares about people, not about itself," he said.

He added that any party that wishes to join his bloc "knows how hard it is to live on minimum wage, how hard it is to serve in the army on 600 to 700 shekels a month and how hard it is to be unemployed. That's what I'm looking for."

Out of ten people who Haaretz spoke to at the campaign launch, only one said that they came out of support for Kahlon. The rest attended at the request of the mayor or of a local youth who was enlisted by a friend to help

A poll predicted on Wednesday that Gantz would receive 21 to 24 Knesset seats if the election was held today – eight seats more than the previous polls predicted. The dramatic rise came a day after Gantz gave his first public remarks on his political platform in Tel Aviv. The former military chief is largely considered the top rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

According to the poll, Kulanu would get 4 to 5 seats, only just passing the electoral threshold. Likud is forecast to receive 30 to 31 seats out of the 120-seat Knesset, while an alliance between Gantz and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid would receive 35 seats with Gantz at the helm.