Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin notified Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he is staying in politics, after months of speculation that he would not run for the 19th Knesset.
Begin, the son of former prime minister and Likud founder Menachem Begin, will run in the Likud primary at the end of November.
According to party sources, Netanyahu promised to support Begin in the primary and convinced him that his departure would harm Likud, especially after popular Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon announced last week that he is taking a break from politics.
“I will continue to help the Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu lead Israel in facing the complex challenges ahead of us,” Begin said on Monday night.
Also on Monday, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein denied wanting to replace Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
Following a meeting between Edelstein and Rivlin on Sunday, Likud insiders said the two discussed the possibility of the former replacing the latter as Knesset speaker in 2014 – when President Shimon Peres finishes his term.
Rivlin has repeatedly said he wants to be the next president, and ran for the position in 2007. His office would not confirm or deny an Israel HaYom report that Rivlin made an agreement with the prime minister that he would remain speaker for two years, and Netanyahu would back him as the Likud’s presidential candidate.
A source close to Edelstein confirmed that the minister met with Rivlin on Monday to discuss political strategy, but expressed outrage at reports that he would be Knesset speaker.
“Yuli wants to be a senior minister and get as high a spot as possible in the primary,” the source said. “People are trying to push him into jobs – Knesset speaker, mayor of Jerusalem – and that is not his direction.”
Edelstein, who moved from the Ukraine to Israel in 1987, reached the 12th spot in the Likud’s list for the 18th Knesset.
Last week, the party’s convention decided to save the 21st spot on the list for an immigrant, but if Edelstein, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin or another immigrant makes it to the national list, meaning seats 1-20, the spot is no longer saved, and the 28th place will be for a new immigrant.