Moshe Kahlon at a weekly cabinet meeting, November 18, 2018.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will seek a merger between his Likud Party, the Kulanu party of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and possibly Avigor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, sources close to Netanyahu said Thursday.
The sources expressed confidence that a deal could be reached with Kahlon in the week ahead on a joint faction of 40 MKs. One Likud source said he would then also seek a bond with Liberman.
“Netanyahu wants to form mega-conservative party,” a source close to him said.
One of the reasons Netanyahu wants Kulanu in the fold is that Kahlon has said he would remove Kulanu from the coalition if the prime minister is indicted by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit following his legal hearing. If Kahlon joins Likud, no party that is expected to be in the coalition would quit.
Other Likud sources said Netanyahu will not seek a merger with Yisrael Beytenu, due to problematic behavior by Liberman in the past and that one of the reasons for the merger with Kulanu would be to minimize Liberman’s ability to bring down Netanyahu.
“We want Kahlon but not Liberman,” Likud MK David Bitan told Army Radio.
Liberman denied reports that he is considering demanding that Netanyahu form a coalition with Blue and White instead of Shas and United Torah Judaism.
“People who think we will push for a national unity government must suffer from paranoia attacks, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer said.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert told Channel 13 that “Liberman can go from being a fringe leader to a national leader by forcing a government with Blue and White.”
Likud sources said Netanyahu intends to takie advantage of Blue and White’s inexperience in the Knesset to have a free hand to pass whatever bills he wants.
Kahlon intends to demand the Finance portfolio, which is being sought after by former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat. Liberman said Thursday that he is not interested in the post. He did not say what portfolio he wants. During the campaign, he said he would seek the Interior portfolio, but Shas leader Arye Deri will not give it up.
The Likud intends to keep the Justice portfolio for Yariv Levin and the Communications portfolio. Netanyahu said during the campaign that he wants to keep the Education portfolio for Likud and ministers Gila Gamliel and Ze’ev Elkin want it, but it could end up going to Union of Right-wing parties leader Rafi Peretz.
The Defense portfolio is being sought by Likud minister Yoav Galant, who headed the Southern Command in the IDF, and KnessetForeign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter. Liberman reportedly also wants to return to the post and Netanyahu is interested in keeping it for himself.
Netanyahu could also appoint himself foreign minister. But there is a chance that legal advisers could tell him that he cannot hold any portfolio due to his ongoing criminal probes.
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