Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon on Sunday, according to Channel 13 political correspondent Sefi Ovadia, and offered him to shift from the Finance Ministry to the Foreign Ministry.
Likud negotiating team chairman Yariv Levin would not confirm or deny the report. Outgoing Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren, who left Kulanu, questioned the report.
“Just like you would not put someone as defense minister with no background in defense, so too Israel’s foreign relations are vital to its security, and therefore I hope the next foreign minister will be someone with a background in foreign relations,” he said.
Netanyahu will hold a long-awaited meeting on Thursday with Kahlon. They are expected to discuss the possibility of a merger between Likud and Kulanu.
The Likud is prepared to build a “mega-portfolio” for Union of Right-wing Parties co-chairman Bezalel Smotrich out of the Construction and Housing Ministry, in order to keep him out of the more sensitive Justice and Education portfolios, Likud sources said Sunday.
Smotrich rejected the offer before coalition talks with his party even began, saying that only either the Education or Justice Ministry were acceptable to him.
“If [former Meretz leaders] Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid could be education minister, then so can I,” Smotrich said. “My views are much closer to the consensus.”
Coalition talks began Sunday with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party. While participants said the meeting went well, they also said the negotiations would be long and difficult, due to differences between Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism on the IDF conscription bill.
The two sides agreed to meet again soon, most likely this week. But UTJ, Shas and URP have refused to negotiate during Passover.
The Likud’s negotiating team includes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Natan Eshel, even though Eshel resigned from his post and agreed not to return to the civil service in February 2012 after signing a plea bargain admitting misconduct toward a female staffer.
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said Eshel should have been prevented from being on the negotiating team. But deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber said it was acceptable for him to be on the team.
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