As the April 9 general election inches closer, Israel's parties are in a frenzy to introduce their ticket – some with primaries like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and Avi Gabbay's Labor, others in flashy press conferences.
Businesswoman Alona Barkat, owner of the Hapoel Be’er Sheva soccer team, announced on Thursday she was joining Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s new right-wing party, Hayamin Hehadash.
Meanwhile, across the political isle, social activist Merav Cohen and media woman Miki Haimovich were among the candidates presented by Benny Gantz on the slate of his new party, Hosen L’Yisrael.
Gantz and fellow Hosen L'Yisrael chairman Moshe Ya’alon announced on Thursday a Knesset ticket of seven candidates, consisting, in addition to Cohen and Haimovich, of Yoaz Hendel, Zvi Hauser, Hili Tropper, Michael Biton and Orit Farkash-Cohen.
Likud, Israel's ruling party, is also likely to introduce several new faces to the Knesset following the party's primaries on Tuesday, which saw Netanyahu's archrival, Gideon Sa'ar, Immigration Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant and former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat being voted onto the ticket.
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Applying soccer to social schemes
Calcalist reported that Barkat had accepted party leaders Bennett and Shaked’s offer to take the third spot on their Knesset slate.
“I’m embarking on a new way. I’ll continue to stand behind Hapoel Be’er Sheva and provide the club with enough funding to remain at the top of Israeli soccer,” Barkat said at a news conference in the city’s Turner Stadium.
“I chose to come to Be’er Sheva because we wanted to prove that one could make it big-time in the Negev. We wanted to prove that soccer could be a way to impart basic values,” she said.
Barkat said she will take the change she made in the team and apply it to larger social schemes. “After 12 wonderful years I realized my duty was to take this belief one step further, to bring the social change from the team to all of Israel. That’s why I heeded the call to join the political arena,” she said.
To prevent even a semblance of conflict of interests, she said she would hand over the management to the team CEO Asi Rahamim.
The party released a video starring Barkat ahead of the news conference she held with Bennett on Thursday evening. The film was produced several days ago, belying the seemingly spontaneous way she informed the media of her move.
Barkat will not be able to hold onto her private businesses while serving in the Knesset. However, she is permitted, like every new MK, several months to wind up her involvement in her previous affairs.
Last month Bennett and Shaked announced the addition of Col. (res.) Matan Kahana to their party. He was the third candidate who joined them since their split, along with MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, from Habayit Hayehudi, following journalist Caroline Glick and Shirly Pinto, a deaf woman activist for the hearing-impaired community.
Tough on Netanyahu's gas plan
Merav Cohen, 35, one of the founders of the Hitorerut movement in Jerusalem, is reportedly poised to join Hosen L’Yisrael. Cohen, one of the leaders of the social protest in the capital in 2011, ran for Knesset as part of Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party in 2013 and served as director of the organization Public Confidence. Today she acts against swindlers who target elderly people in consumer-related issues.
Earlier on Thursday, TheMarker reported that former Electric Corporation chairwoman Orit Farkash-Hacohen is also expected to join Hosen L’Yisrael and run for a Knesset seat on the party’s ticket. Farkash-Hacohen was ousted from the Electric Corporation in August 2015 following her criticism of the natural gas plan led by Netanyahu.
Observers noted that placing her on Gantz’s slate may reflect the party’s position regarding the gas plan.
Two others who may be joining Gantz’s party are social activist Inbar Giti, formerly director of the Aharai organization and currently director of former education minister Shay Piron’s Pnima organization, and former Labor activist Rachel Turgeman.
Former Israel Diamond Exchange CEO Eli Avidar joined Yisrael Beiteinu on Thursday and was appointed head of the party’s team in charge of state affairs.
Avidar, 54, of Egyptian origin, previously served in the Foreign Ministry and headed the Israeli mission in Qatar. He served as Diamond Institute CEO for 12 years and Diamond Exchange CEO for two years. He also founded and chaired the diplomatic security forum Smart Middle East.