As the Center-Left bloc struggles to find leadership that will bring it more
votes and challenge the unified Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list that will run in
January’s elections, a candidate from the Right may be stepping in to take the
As part of deliberations over whether he can form a new political
party, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) commissioned a poll this
week that showed he could win 20 seats on his own or 27 if he runs with former
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.
Kahlon announced two weeks ago that he planned
to take a break from politics
but would remain active in the Likud. He presided over Monday’s Likud central
committee meeting, hugging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said on
Wednesday: “Kahlon clearly said to me he’s staying in Likud, and told the public
that he’s staying in Likud, so I believe he will stay.”
planned to sit out the upcoming elections to the 19th Knesset but run with the
party for a seat in the 20th. However, following Thursday’s announcement of the
joint election slate with Yisrael Beytenu, he became concerned that Foreign
Minister Avigdor Liberman would leave an indelible mark on the Likud’s
Meanwhile, Likud MKs appealed to the prime minister on
Wednesday night to convince Kahlon to stay in the Likud. MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen
said he was sure that if Netanyahu, Liberman and Kahlon met they would be able
to reach an agreement.
Both Kahlon’s departure and Liberman’s entry into
Likud politics created a media firestorm over the possibility that the party
would alienate its grassroots Sephardi voter base, with a minister of Libyan
descent leaving and one from the former Soviet Union arriving in his
As such, Kahlon began researching the possibility of forming a new
party on Tuesday, commissioning a Smith Research poll. He commissioned a second
poll for Thursday and plans to make a final decision early next week.
first poll showed that a party under Kahlon’s leadership could get 20 seats in
the next Knesset. If Kahlon were to form a party with Livni it would get 27
seats, only three less than the so-called Likud Beytenu list.
close to Livni, who was also a Likud minister before Kadima, say polls she
commissioned show similar, but slightly lower, numbers for a list with
In addition, according to Kahlon’s poll, should he run – with or
without Livni – Shas and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would each drop to under 10
It should also be noted that polls focusing on a specific
candidate tend to be disproportionately flattering to that
Still, while Livni’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny
reports on the former Kadima leader’s political future, she and Kahlon were
discussing a joint venture but had yet to agree on who would lead the new
Should Livni and Kahlon decide to run together, one or both would have to change their current political positions.
While Kahlon’s socioeconomic opinions would fit in with the Center-Left, the Likud minister could end up butting heads with Livni on diplomatic issues, in which he is unabashedly right-wing.
Two months ago, Kahlon expressed support for the Levy Report, which states that West Bank settlements are legal under international law.
According to Arutz Sheva, Kahlon called for the government to adopt the report and strengthen settlements during a visit to Itamar, a settlement in Samaria.
Livni, however, said in response to the Levy Report that settlements were a diplomatic issue, not a legal one.
She has spoken out against continuing settlement construction and government funding for towns in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Labor published a Mina Tzemach poll on Wednesday that showed that if Kahlon ran with the party, it would tie Likud Beytenu for 32 seats each. Under the current situation, Likud Beytenu would get 37 and Labor 23, according to the poll.
Sources close to the communications minister said Wednesday he was not considering a move to Labor.
Earlier Wednesday, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said she would love to see Kahlon return to politics.
“I’m saying this honestly and not thinking about my party. It would serve exactly what I am trying to fight – the irrelevant dichotomy between diplomatic Right and Left,” she said in an interview with Galei Yisrael.
“There are no longer two blocs, Right and Left.”
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