Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon shot down rumors of a united right-wing bloc in the next election, but made overtures toward a possible political partner, former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, in a briefing to the Knesset Reporters’ Association Monday.
Asked about reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to unite right-wing parties into one bloc ahead of the next election, Kahlon emphatically said that he will not run as part of it or any other joint bloc.
“I didn’t leave the Likud to return to the Likud,” he stated. “I founded Kulanu and we will continue to function as an excellent faction. We will run as Kulanu in the next election.”
Kahlon said he thinks Kulanu “found its place on the political map,” and that there is a population interested in voting for a “right-wing socioeconomic party that is traditional on religious matters.” At the same time, Kahlon compared elections to a soccer match and hinted at possible changes, saying “drama always happens at the 88th minute.”
As for Sa’ar, who like Kahlon is a former Likud minister who did not leave the party immediately after exiting the Knesset, the finance minister echoed statements from last week inviting him to Kulanu.
“I would be happy if Sa’ar ran with me. I like him,” Kahlon said, but added: “He hasn’t left the Likud. He’s a Likudnik. He has not decided on his next steps, so this is not fair.”
Kahlon also said an election is not likely to happen in the next year. “The public won’t forgive whoever causes an election. The government is functioning, the budget passed, everything complicated passed [into law]. There’s no reason for an election that will put the country on hold for six to eight months,” he stated.
In any case, the Kulanu leader pointed out, recent polls do not show major changes from the current Knesset’s makeup. At the same time, Kahlon advocated for the 61-seat coalition to be expanded.
“I sweat before the vote on every bill,” he lamented. “I suffer from it. It’s not easy to work this way. Running a coalition like this is complicated... Every Wednesday, millions, tens of millions of shekels go up for a vote and I make phone calls days in advance to make sure we get a majority.”
Kahlon complained about absences by Likud lawmakers last week that led to the toppling of a bill by Kulanu MK Yifat Shasha-Biton lowering the minimum age for part-time work to 13, and said he plans to talk to Netanyahu about coalition discipline.
Kahlon also addressed Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s protests against him, which included not collecting garbage on Sunday and threatening to fire workers.
“I don’t know what he wants from me. Really,” Kahlon shrugged. “I have no problem meeting with him... I will give Jerusalem everything it deserves. I love Jerusalem.”
When asked if Barkat was extorting him by threatening to fire some of the municipality’s lowest earners, Kahlon said: “I’m not going to educate him. I guess that’s the education he received.”
The Jerusalem Municipality responded that: “Unfortunately Jerusalem and it’s many challenges are not Kahlon’s priority. Even worse, the minister is making Jerusalem take 10 steps backwards. At a time when the capital of Israel is dealing with existential challenges, this is no less than an economic attack.”