(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Welfare and Social Services Minister and veteran Likud power-broker Haim Katz formally announced Monday afternoon that he is running in the December 29 race for the key post of Likud central committee chairman.
The chairman of the committee can use the position to sway the Likud ideologically and make life difficult for the leader of the party.
The former head of the committee, Danny Danon, used such tactics before Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu appointed him as ambassador to the United Nations.
“The central committee is the heart of the party and its members are the force that leads us to success,” Katz said in announcing his candidacy on his Facebook page. “I intend to use my experience and my abilities to strengthen the party.”
Katz immediately received endorsements from ministers Israel Katz, Ophir Akunis, Ze’ev Elkin and Miri Regev; MKs Yoav Kisch and Miki Zohar; and Netanyahu’s former number two in Likud, popular former minister Gideon Sa’ar. His spokeswoman said he is also supported by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
“Haim is a man who has always put the good of the party at the top of his priorities,” Israel Katz said. “I am convinced that as central committee chairman he could unify the ranks of the party and maintain its democratic ideals.”
If Katz wins, it could be a boost for Sa’ar if he runs in a future race to replace Netanyahu as head of Likud.
Katz is running against MKs Tzachi Hanegbi, Yaron Mazuz, David Amsalem and Nava Boker, though Boker reportedly intends to drop out of the race. Amsalem has been endorsed by ministers Gilad Erdan, Yariv Levin and Gila Gamliel, as well as MKs Jackie Levy, Avi Dichter, David Bitan and Abraham Naguise.
Netanyahu has told Amsalem he will not endorse any candidate, but the prime minister is thought to silently be backing Hanegbi, who held the post for several years before he left for Kadima.
Amsalem proposed a bill Sunday that would make it easier for parties’ central committee members to apply for government jobs.
The bill would no longer require applicants for government jobs to declare their political connections.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.