Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to Likud ministers who fared poorly in
Sunday and Monday’s party primary and reassured them that he would not decide
cabinet posts based on their showing in the race.
In a speech at the Tel
Aviv Fairgrounds following the announcement of the results, Netanyahu made a
point of singling out two ministers in the inner security cabinet who were not
elected to realistic slots on the party’s Knesset list and hinting that they
would remain in the cabinet should he win the January 22 election.
want to say something personal to my friends, ministers Dan Meridor and Bennie
Begin,” Netanyahu said. “I really appreciate your contribution to the state, and
I want to continue to be helped by your experience.”
Netanyahu spoke to
Begin before the announcement of the results in which the veteran minister fell
just short of a realistic slot. The prime minister spoke to him again Tuesday
and pleaded with him to not interpret the vote as a message from Likudniks that
he should retire.
“I will do everything possible to make you a minister,”
Netanyahu reportedly said.
Begin’s narrow defeat was blamed on his
reluctance to campaign and his reliance on his name and his record
Netanyahu also called two political allies who won realistic slots
but did not meet expectations.
He told Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
that he would still give him a senior portfolio, most likely keeping his current
The prime minister told Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who
finished third among women in the party, that she would still be a minister in
his prospective next government.
He made no such promise to MKs Tzipi
Hotovely and Miri Regev, who won more votes.
“You don’t need to worry,”
Netanyahu told Livnat.
A source close to Livnat said she did not make
political deals and that she is “proud that she was elected despite not taking
part in dirty politics.”
Netanyahu also called victorious candidates to
congratulate them immediately before results were revealed to the public. He
placed calls to the top finishers, ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan, and
to surprise fifthplace winner Danny Danon.
Sources in Yisrael Beytenu
rejected speculation that Begin, economist Shlomo Maoz, or other failed Knesset
candidates could still end up on the joint list made of candidates from Likud
and Yisrael Beytenu. The sources noted party regulations that require candidates
to be members for six months and submit their candidacies by last week in order
to run, but the sources added a caveat that party chairman Avigdor Liberman
could disregard such rules.
While sources in former minister Tzipi
Livni’s new party expressed interest in Meridor, Likud officials said he is not
expected to accept an invitation to join a party that is unlikely to be part of
the next coalition.
In his speech at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Netanyahu
rejected criticism that the list was too right-wing. He predicted that the party
would continue to rule after the election.
“Today it was proven once
again that the Likud is the party of the nation,” Netanyahu proclaimed, saying
the Likud has “an experienced, varied, and talented list” and that the party is
“strong, energetic, and full of pizzazz.”