On the Campaign Trail: Gantz Slams Netanyahu's Son as the Right Battles Over Portfolios

Rise of far-rightist moves others to join cannabis bandwagon ■ Netanyahu says Likud would hold on to education portfolio, sought after by the Union of Right-Wing Parties

File photo: Yair Netanyahu during a court discussion in Tel Aviv, June 5, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of his party on Monday Likud would hold on to the education portfolio in the next government. But given the history of Israeli prime ministers giving the job to other coalition partners, it's hard to say whether he would keep this promise should Likud win the April 9 election.

Haaretz Weekly Episode 18Haaretz

In a bid to pressure Habayit Hayehudi and National Union to form a joint slate with Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit, Netanyahu said last month he would give the education portfolio to the Union of Right-Wing Parties. What remains to be seen is whether Likud's far-right allies will insist on the post for the duration of the campaign.

>> Read more: These seven parties’ fates will decide Israel's election ■ Gantz and Ashkenazi: Failed businessmen? ■ Racist Knesset candidates borrow ideology from Labor's occupation pioneers | Opinion

National Union chairman Bezalel Smotrich has in recent days been speaking in public events and media interviews about his policies as future education minister. Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin, whose party is predicted four out of 120 Knesset seats according to recent polls, also said he would seek the post.

Meanwhile, calls to legalize cannabis have grabbed center stage in the campaign. The rise of far-rightist Moshe Feiglin, who embraces marijuana legalization, has led other parties to show a similar interest in weed.

Also on Monday, Netanyahu said he would consider legalizing cannabis. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu said he would seek to revoke criminal records for Israelis convicted in the past for possession. Gesher chairwoman Orli Levi-Abekasis said that as health minister she would seek to ease the distribution of medicinal weed.

Netanyahu's unusual remarks show his concern over Feiglin's rise in poll numbers, at the expense of other right-wing parties, and that the prime minister is trying to signal he's also open to change. It's difficult to see his comments bringing about any revolutionary change, though.

In another rather entertaining, but not so significant, development Monday, Likud's main rival, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid's Kahol Lavan party demanded that Netanyahu "gain control of your son Yair’s mouth and keyboard," accusing the prime minister’s son of making inflammatory remarks against President Reuven Rivlin.

Yair Netanyahu had slammed Rivlin on Twitter for supporting actress Rotem Sela's criticism of his father's claim that Israel is a "nation state of the Jewish people and it alone." The weight of Yair's Twitter account in the campaign is minimal, but Kahol Lavan's rebuttal suggests Gantz's party will be moving full steam ahead in negative campaign messaging.