Haredim favor Zohar as head of coalition

The race is significant, as whoever wins will enter a high profile yet demanding post.

January 6, 2016 02:22
1 minute read.
Miki Zohar

Miki Zohar.. (photo credit: COURTESY OF MIKI ZOHAR)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to select a new coalition chairman in the upcoming days from among freshman Likud MKs David Bitan, Yoav Kisch and Miki Zohar, sources close to the prime minister said Tuesday.

The race is significant, as whoever wins will enter a high profile yet demanding post.

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Success in the job could help the new coalition chairman win one of the few available slots on the Likud list for the next Knesset.

In a coalition of 61, the post is especially sensitive. The coalition has been narrowly defeated on six votes, including a no-confidence motion on Monday, while current coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi was abroad.

Hanegbi is expected to be promoted to the cabinet in upcoming days. He is likely to receive the Tourism portfolio that will be vacated by Yariv Levin, who is expected to be appointed as economy minister, a position currently occupied by Netanyahu.

Knesset members who have worked with the three candidates since they entered the parliament said they each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Bitan has run the Knesset House Committee, which has been a stepping stone to the coalition chairmanship in the past. But MKs complained that he argues too much and is “not the kind of compromiser a coalition chairman needs to be.”

MKs said Kisch, a former fighter pilot, is a natural leader and the most charismatic. But he angered haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MKs by opposing the cancellation of the haredi draft bill.

Zohar has worked well with Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) as the coalition’s coordinator on the committee, and haredi MKs said they hope he wins the job. But some MKs in Kulanu believe Zohar goes too far in pandering to the haredim.

As the deputy head of the coalition, Zohar filled in for Hanegbi on Monday at the start of the Likud faction meeting. In his short introduction, Zohar, who keeps Shabbat but does not wear a kippa, repeatedly used the phrase “with God’s help.”

“We are giving a fight,” Zohar’s spokeswoman said.

“We really want the job.”

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