Due diligence

If Shlomo Karhi’s mock-primary win is any indication, Likud activists are getting fed up with jerks

January 25, 2018 19:21
ISRAELIS TAKE PART in a protest against corruption in Tel Aviv last year

ISRAELIS TAKE PART in a protest against corruption in Tel Aviv last year. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)


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It looks like some Likudniks did their due diligence.

A mock primary was held a couple of weeks ago at the Likudiada in Eilat, where the party faithful, generally from the mid and lower ranks of the Likud, gather each year for fun and games. They’re mostly the you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours variety that people play when they’re networking and hungry for influence (and the occasional job handout from the top echelons).

To make things interesting and bestow upon the gathering a patina of newsworthiness, the organizers give participants a say in who they think is worthy of representing the party in the Knesset. The outcome never really matches the slates that emerge from real primaries, but the exercise is a good indicator of who’s popular at the time.

The mock polling is also a tad more democratic than the real primaries. The Likudiada voters get a say in filling a handful of seats that in real life are reserved for people hand-picked at the very top to represent special sectors, be they geographic (the Negev, the Galilee) or social (women, immigrants and the young). Call it the political iteration of affirmative action.

On the ballot representing the young this year was one Yair Netanyahu.

Yair hasn’t had terrific press of late, whether it’s for failing to clean up after his dog and arrogantly flipping the bird to disgusted neighbors; for an anti-Soros meme on Facebook whose antisemitic and conspiratorial overtones were ecstatically embraced by neo-Nazis; or for a surreptitious recording of him bragging to drinking buddies about prostitutes and how his father, the prime minister, had helped the father of one of the others secure a gazillion-dollar gas deal.

Yair has long insisted he’s not interested in politics and we’re told that his name was placed on the ballot by the organizers. It certainly garnered prevote headlines, and possibly not just because of Netanyahu the Younger, but also owing to the last person who ran in the real elections as the Likud’s “young” candidate.

OREN HAZAN, at the time 33, was chosen personally for this slot by Netanyahu père. It wasn’t long, though, before Hazan gave the Likud’s young a bad name. There were allegations of prostitutes and hard drugs for clients when he managed a casino in Bulgaria. In the Knesset, he disparaged women for their looks and bullied a female MK with muscular dystrophy when she had difficulty pressing a button to vote on legislation.

In the testosterone department, he “accepted” an invitation to a fistfight by a Jordanian politician. Most famously, he gleefully snuck in for a selfie with a befuddled Donald Trump as Benjamin Netanyahu, clearly unhappy, tried to bat the MK’s smartphone away during the US president’s airport welcome.

Obviously, Oren Hazan is a jerk.

IT COULD be because of this, as well as Yair Netanyahu’s own predilection for jerkdom, that brought victory at the Likudiada to Shlomo Karhi as the “young” candidate on the mock primary list.

Still unknown to the general public, Karhi was born in 1982, the eldest of 17 children. He was raised in Zimrat, a religious moshav near Netivot settled by Tunisian Jews. His father is the community rabbi there.

He is also a product of the Sephardi yeshiva world, having boarded for five years at Kisei Rahamim in Bnei Brak, where his father studied. The yeshiva’s head, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, is considered a patron of former Shas politician Eli Yishai.

“It’s really a special yeshiva,” Karhi told me this week. “You study in a different way, with a core curriculum…. Some of my friends from the yeshiva went out into the world like me, serving in the army and becoming part of the workforce, although Kisei Rahamim trains students primarily to be rabbis, teachers and community religious leaders.”

Karhi was one of the first soldiers in Nahal Haredi. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and information systems from the Jerusalem College of Technology, and freshly married, moved with his wife, Efrat, to Beersheba, where he worked as an accountant and comptroller.

“At that point, Kassam rockets were falling on Sderot, and my brother-in-law, a lecturer at Sapir College, invited me to come, complaining that people were staying away,” he says. “So I went and began lecturing in statistics and I changed direction. I liked academia. From there I went on to Ben-Gurion University for my master’s and doctorate in industrial engineering and management.”

He is now in his fourth year as a lecturer in the Department of Management at Bar-Ilan University. He and Efrat have five children and live in Zimrat.

Personable, thoughtful and enthusiastic, Karhi has been with the Likud since 2010.

“I think that the Likud, at least in its public image, is lacking in the social and economic spheres,” he says. “I’m from a large family and live in the periphery and I see people whose salaries can’t get them through the month, who fight for every shekel they can spend for their children.”

Together with freshman Likud MK Yoav Kisch, he drew up a bill, now in its preliminary readings, to cancel the high fees on refinancing mortgages.

“Young couples take out mortgages at a disadvantage against the bank and without fully understanding the consequences. If the refinancing fees can be fixed, households will have more money to finish the month,” he explains.

A couple of years ago, when Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon suggested salary caps on top managers, the young Likudnik wrote him a letter.

“Instead of sticking your hands in the pockets of the wealthy,” he told Kahlon, “why not make sure they keep their hands out of ours?” It’s good to see quality people turning to politics, and others realizing their worth. Now if we could all do our due diligence at election time.

Best of luck, Shlomo. I’m no Likudnik but I’m pulling for you.

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