Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [File].
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former communications minister Moshe Kahlon never intended to make headlines this week.
When he told the Umbrella Organization for Independent Businesspeople Monday that he intends to form a political framework to run in the next general election, it was not the first or second time he said it publicly.
He was so surprised that his statement made headlines that he called up Likud director-general Gadi Arieli that night to formally resign from the party so no one would question why he was still a member of the party.
But what made Kahlon’s statement newsworthy was the timing, not the content. It came at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening coalition partners with early elections and advancing the Likud leadership primary.
Netanyahu’s threats and his actions created premature election fever that he tried to end with statements at his birthday party
Tuesday about political campaigns being the last thing Israelis need right now.
Elections are also the last thing needed by Netanyahu’s Likud or any of its coalition partners, except for Bayit Yehudi, which is doing well in the polls.
The prime minister’s popularity rose due to his battle with Washington over building in Jerusalem. But he would not throw away three more years in the Prime Minister’s Office to take a risk by going to the polls.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman still needs time to differentiate his Yisrael Beytenu party from its rivals and recover from its ill-fated partnership with Likud in the last election. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid needs time to improve the economy before the finance minister is ready for the public to judge him.
Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni’s party is unlikely to exist in the next election.
And even Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett needs more time to gain political experience and accomplishments in his first ministerial posts.
But the main reason that any politician threatening elections now is bluffing is Kahlon. Polls show that his as yet unformed party will take away a huge amount of support from Likud and take away votes from Yesh Atid, Shas, Bayit Yehudi, Labor, Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz.
Current Knesset members are so afraid of Kahlon that no matter how wide the differences in Netanyahu’s coalition become, the parties have an interest in overcoming them. While it won’t last until the official date of the next election, which is November 7, 2017, fear of Kahlon could keep the coalition together longer than expected.
That is why from now on, every sentence Kahlon utters will be scrutinized.
Every step he takes, there will be plenty of politicians who will try to trip him. And he will continue to make headlines that take him by surprise.