(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem deputy mayor, activist and Yerushalmim faction leader Rachel Azaria is in the midst of finalizing negotiations to join Moshe Kahlon’s nascent Koolanu party ahead of the March Knesset elections.
While Azaria, who holds the Jerusalem Municipality’s Education and Women’s Rights portfolios, would not confirm media reports of her intent to join Kahlon’s party Tuesday afternoon, a source close to her, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions, was more sanguine.
“We’ve had negotiations and ongoing talks for a while now, but have not closed a deal yet,” the political insider said. “It looks positive but still needs to be finalized. An official announcement will be made in a couple days.”
Azaria’s faction holds two seats in the capital’s city council.
Since being elected in 2008, the outspoken deputy mayor has been a staunch advocate for women’s rights, early childhood education, and reformed kashrut laws.
Last year, Azaria, an internationally recognized Orthodox feminist and social activist, won reelection and was subsequently appointed deputy mayor.
Since taking office, she has spearheaded multiple initiatives to empower women and ease highly restrictive kosher certification laws governed by the Chief Rabbinate in an attempt to engender greater trust between the nation’s food purveyors and patrons.
If Azaria does join former Likud welfare minister Kahlon, it is widely expected that she will continue to focus her energies on the causes she has long championed.
In the meantime, with the notable exceptions of former ambassador to the US Michael Oren and Israel Prize laureate Eli Alaluf, Kahlon has remained tight-lipped about the identities of other individuals expected to join his party.
Kahlon registered Koolanu, which means “all of us” in Hebrew, in Jerusalem on December 11, making the movement he has been working on for several months a reality.
While most of the goals for the party listed on the registrar forms are socioeconomic, Koolanu also calls for “creating a diplomatic-security horizon for Israel” and “desires a diplomatic agreement with our neighbors.”
A Kahlon spokesman denied recent reports that Koolanu would run with Yesh Atid in the March 17 election, despite former Yesh Atid minister Meir Cohen’s suggestion during a radio interview earlier this month that it was indeed a possibility.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.