(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Communications Minister Gilad Erdan will decide over the coming days whether to accept an offer from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to replace Gideon Sa’ar as interior minister, or Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s invitation to be Israel’s next United Nations ambassador.
Netanyahu reportedly made the offer on Friday to Erdan, who is the number three politician in the Likud after Netanyahu and Sa’ar. Erdan had intended to take the UN post before Sa’ar announced last Wednesday that he was taking a break from politics.
Erdan could use the UN post to build his credentials as a statesman and prepare himself for a future battle for the Likud leadership in a post-Netanyahu era. But the Interior portfolio would help him build his ties with Likud mayors, who control the Union of Local Authorities and have significant power inside the Likud’s grassroots.
Whether Erdan receives the post will impact other appointments inside the party that Netanyahu is not expected to make until after the Jewish holidays in mid-October.
Leaving the appointments until later will help Netanyahu ensure the obedience of his party’s ministers and MKs for as long as possible.
Sa’ar revealed in television interviews broadcast on Friday night that even though he referred to his departure from the Knesset as a “timeout,” he had no plans to return to politics.
“If I feel after I do other things that I want to return and the public wants me, I can always consider it,” he told Channel 10.
Sa’ar admitted in the interviews that his soured relationship with Netanyahu had contributed to his surprise resignation announcement, though his desire to spend more time with his family was the primary reason. He said that he and Netanyahu had not been on speaking terms over the past few months.
“I can’t deny that my relations with Netanyahu are not what they were before,” he said.
Asked by Channel 2 if he was upset that the prime minister did not ask him to reconsider and stay, he said: “When there are no expectations, there is no disappointment.”
Sources close to Sa’ar denied reports over the weekend that he had consulted with former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon about his political future. Israel Hayom reported that Sa’ar had tried to persuade Kahlon to help him topple Netanyahu from the Likud leadership.
The sources said Sa’ar and Kahlon met last week as they do regularly as friends, but that they did not discuss Sa’ar leaving politics.
A Dialog poll published in Haaretz found that 16 percent of Israelis would consider voting for a party led by Kahlon. If Sa’ar joined it, 23% would mull casting their ballot for such a list.
Fifteen percent said they were less likely to vote for Likud without Sa’ar.
Asked who was the most fit to serve as prime minister; 38% said Netanyahu, 7% opposition leader Isaac Herzog, 6% Liberman, 5% each said Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Kahlon, Sa’ar and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and 4% Finance Minister Yair Lapid.Ariel Zilber contributed to this report.