MOSHE KAHLON (center) visits with fellow Koolanu candidates.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Amid a cacophony of beating drums, blowing whistles, cheers, and supporters waving and draped in Israeli and Koolanu flags, the nascent party’s leader, Moshe Kahlon, joined by marquee members of his populist slate, visited Jerusalem’s shuk Wednesday to vow socioeconomic reform.
The message was well received by dozens who followed the party’s afternoon procession through the market’s labyrinth of narrow walkways, as Kahlon shook hands and posed for pictures with merchants.
“I’m supporting him because I think he’s the only one who can do something about the cost of living in Israel,” said Lily Pergamenikou, while Koolanu members, including former ambassador to the US Michael Oren and Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Rachel Azaria, stood by Kahlon’s side.
“He’s already proven himself as minister of welfare for Likud and by drastically lowering cellphone companies’ charges, and he knows how to make magic with the bureaucratic system, which is so hard to do,” Pergamenikou explained.
Itamar Cohen, who manages Koolanu’s youth movement, said Kahlon is the only politician who is providing a sense of hope for the nation’s young electorate, who feel disenfranchised by seemingly insurmountable economic burdens.
“This party was founded because the youth don’t see a future in Israel, because you can’t buy a home or go to university without parents’ support, and we believe that he can do what he did with cellular phone [monopolies] with other economic and social issues,” said Cohen.
Nirit Eibi, an economist who marched with Koolanu members through the shuk, said economic inequity and prohibitive cost-of-living expenses in Israel have become intolerable.
“I’m here because I believe the market in Israel should be open to every supplier who can help reduce the prices here, where costs are higher than in every country in the OECD,” she said, referring to the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“I believe Moshe is the only one who won’t give up to the pressures and powers of the monopolies and banks,” she said.
Assaf Boteach echoed these sentiments.
“I support this guy because he’s the one to help the public solve the financial monopolies,” he said. “He did it before, and he’s promising to do it in the future. He will help us with things that affect our pockets in daily life.”
During his visit, Kahlon denied rampant rumors that his party may form a coalition with Yesh Atid, stating: “I simply want to say that we are running alone to the end.”
Oren said he is confident that Koolanu is the best option for voters hoping to radically change Israel’s foundering political and economic landscape.
“According to all the polls, a significant majority of Israelis view the social and economic problems facing this country as the greatest threat to the country’s security and future existence, and this party has come to give an answer to those problems.”Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.