Kahlon commissions poll, could win 20 seats

Former popular Likud minister surveys potential voters, indicating possible return to political arena despite former protestations.

Likud primary polling place 390 (photo credit: Ben Spier/screenshot)
Likud primary polling place 390
(photo credit: Ben Spier/screenshot)
As the Center-Left bloc struggles to find leadership that will bring it more votes and challenge the unified Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list that will run in January’s elections, a candidate from the Right may be stepping in to take the reins.
As part of deliberations over whether he can form a new political party, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) commissioned a poll this week that showed he could win 20 seats on his own or 27 if he runs with former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.
Kahlon announced two weeks ago that he planned to take a break from politics but would remain active in the Likud. He presided over Monday’s Likud central committee meeting, hugging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said on Wednesday: “Kahlon clearly said to me he’s staying in Likud, and told the public that he’s staying in Likud, so I believe he will stay.”
Kahlon originally planned to sit out the upcoming elections to the 19th Knesset but run with the party for a seat in the 20th. However, following Thursday’s announcement of the joint election slate with Yisrael Beytenu, he became concerned that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman would leave an indelible mark on the Likud’s character.
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Meanwhile, Likud MKs appealed to the prime minister on Wednesday night to convince Kahlon to stay in the Likud. MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen said he was sure that if Netanyahu, Liberman and Kahlon met they would be able to reach an agreement.
Both Kahlon’s departure and Liberman’s entry into Likud politics created a media firestorm over the possibility that the party would alienate its grassroots Sephardi voter base, with a minister of Libyan descent leaving and one from the former Soviet Union arriving in his stead.
As such, Kahlon began researching the possibility of forming a new party on Tuesday, commissioning a Smith Research poll. He commissioned a second poll for Thursday and plans to make a final decision early next week.
The first poll showed that a party under Kahlon’s leadership could get 20 seats in the next Knesset. If Kahlon were to form a party with Livni it would get 27 seats, only three less than the so-called Likud Beytenu list.
Sources close to Livni, who was also a Likud minister before Kadima, say polls she commissioned show similar, but slightly lower, numbers for a list with Kahlon.
In addition, according to Kahlon’s poll, should he run – with or without Livni – Shas and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would each drop to under 10 seats.
It should also be noted that polls focusing on a specific candidate tend to be disproportionately flattering to that candidate.
Still, while Livni’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny reports on the former Kadima leader’s political future, she and Kahlon were discussing a joint venture but had yet to agree on who would lead the new party.
Should Livni and Kahlon decide to run together, one or both would have to change their current political positions.
While Kahlon’s socioeconomic opinions would fit in with the Center-Left, the Likud minister could end up butting heads with Livni on diplomatic issues, in which he is unabashedly right-wing.
Two months ago, Kahlon expressed support for the Levy Report, which states that West Bank settlements are legal under international law.
According to Arutz Sheva, Kahlon called for the government to adopt the report and strengthen settlements during a visit to Itamar, a settlement in Samaria.
Livni, however, said in response to the Levy Report that settlements were a diplomatic issue, not a legal one.
She has spoken out against continuing settlement construction and government funding for towns in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Labor published a Mina Tzemach poll on Wednesday that showed that if Kahlon ran with the party, it would tie Likud Beytenu for 32 seats each. Under the current situation, Likud Beytenu would get 37 and Labor 23, according to the poll.
Sources close to the communications minister said Wednesday he was not considering a move to Labor.
Earlier Wednesday, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said she would love to see Kahlon return to politics.
“I’m saying this honestly and not thinking about my party. It would serve exactly what I am trying to fight – the irrelevant dichotomy between diplomatic Right and Left,” she said in an interview with Galei Yisrael.
“There are no longer two blocs, Right and Left.”