Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began efforts to find a socioeconomically
minded replacement in the Knesset and the cabinet for departing Welfare Minister
Moshe Kahlon on Monday.
Kahlon was seen as the face of the Likud on
socioeconomic issues and the party’s answer to the campaigns of the Likud’s
competition. He also was one of the Likud’s only two Sephardi ministers,
although the party has several Sephardi MKs.
Netanyahu’s former bureau
chief Natan Eshel met on Monday with former OC Southern Command Maj.- Gen.
(res.) Yom-Tov Samia, but a source close to Eshel said there was no chance of
Samia running. The prime minister met Monday with several Kadima MKs who want to
run in Likud, including Ya’acov Edri, Arieh Bibi and Avi Duan, who are all
Netanyahu made an effort to persuade Kahlon to remain in
politics in an emotional Likud faction meeting in which MKs took turns praising
the retiring minister.
“I can understand the desire to take a break [from
politics],” Netanyahu said to Kahlon. “I took one too. But I haven’t given up,
and I won’t give up trying to persuade you to stay.
Your place is with us
in leading the country.”
Kahlon used his speech at the meeting to
vigorously deny rumors that a fight with Netanyahu had led to his departure. He
stressed that he remained loyal to the Likud and would campaign for the party in
“This is the most socioeconomic government I have seen,”
Kahlon said. “There is more work to do and the ministers and MKs here are the
best to do it. I will take part in the campaign and try to help the Likud so it
can continue to lead.”
Sources close to Kahlon speculated that he would
join the private sector, working for wealthy businessman Kobi Maimon.
needs some rest,” said the minister’s brother, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Kobi
Kahlon. “He can come back in four or eight years as head of Likud.”
Likud’s law committee will meet Tuesday night to decide the technical parameters
for deciding the party’s Knesset list. The most likely day for the Likud primary
is November 25.