Former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat emerged as one of the surprise winners of Tuesday’s Likud primary when he successfully completed his risky move from his post as Jerusalem mayor to the ninth slot on the Likud’s list for Knesset in the April 9 election.
Barkat announced in March that he would not seek a third term as mayor and would instead enter national politics. But before that, he already hosted large groups of Likud central committee members for weekly VIP tours of Jerusalem and meetings with him.
Ahead of last Rosh Hashanah, Barkat co-hosted and sponsored a massive event at the Jerusalem International Convention Center with Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, which introduced him to Likud activists from across the country who support Regev.
To obtain the 30,143 votes he received and defeated many veteran Likud politicians, Barkat relied on a staff of some 400 volunteers, many of whom he has known since his days in the IDF and in hi-tech.
He also benefited from a video of him subduing a terrorist near Jerusalem’s City Hall four years ago that happened to emerge just ahead of the Likud race and interviews in which Barkat downplayed his former membership in the Kadima party and emphasized his current opposition to a Palestinian state.
“It makes me emotional and shocked to see the force and the extent of the support and trust that I received from Likud members,” Barkat said after results were announced. “Likud members selected a list that is varied and strong and will continue to lead the State of Israel under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. From now on, I will serve all citizens of Israel and give them my all for the good of our dear state.”
Barkat is considered close to Netanyahu and his key financial backers like Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. He is now likely to receive a senior portfolio from Netanyahu, which could position him as a potential successor in the post-Netanyahu era.
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