Kahlon not running, but Likud is still 'home'

Following rumors the communications minister would form a new party, Kahlon says the break is from politics, not Likud.

Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon 311 (photo credit: Avi Hayun)
Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon 311
(photo credit: Avi Hayun)
Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon is leaving politics, will not form a new party and continues to support the Likud, he said on Saturday night.
“On October 14, I announced that I am taking a break from political life and will not run for the 19th Knesset, and I am sticking to that decision,” he said. “The Likud is my home, for both diplomatic and social issues.
“It is not a coincidence that you did not hear me talking about a new party last week.
The reason is that there is no new party,” Kahlon explained. “People asked me, and there were polls that, contrary to reports, I did not commission. There were pressures. I listened to everyone, but I never changed my mind.”
The communications minister said he would continue to help the Likud, under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership, to win the election, and would be part of a government committee that would work to lower the cost of living and change the system of government.
Kahlon plans to continue to promote a social agenda outside of the government and the Knesset.
He concluded his message by calling for Israelis to vote for the Likud on January 22.
Though his message indicated he will continue to help the Likud, Kahlon has yet to decide what his next move will be.
One of his options is to attend Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program, as he has planned since announcing he was dropping out of the Likud primary race two weeks ago.
Another option Kahlon has is to join the “Likud Beytenu” candidates list.
Although it is too late for him to run in the November 25 Likud primary, Kahlon could be put in one of the spots reserved for Yisrael Beytenu members, or he could be appointed as a minister, without becoming an MK in the next Knesset.
On Thursday night, following reports that Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Natan Eshel, a close associate and former chief of staff of Netanyahu, met with Kahlon, neither man would confirm or deny the meetings or comment on what they might have offered the communications minister if he would stay in the Likud.
Kahlon’s associates and Likud officials pressured the minister in opposite directions throughout last week.
The minister’s allies worked to convince him to form a party, pointing to a poll from Tuesday that showed him getting 20 seats in the next Knesset. The poll, however, was an “omnibus,” which means a single question in an unrelated survey. In addition, poll questions referring to a specific candidate are usually flattering to that person.
Meanwhile, Likud MKs called Kahlon and made statements to the media asking him to stay in the party where he began his political career.
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In a press conference in Paris on Wednesday, Netanyahu said he believed Kahlon would stay in Likud, and the next day, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin called for Kahlon to “come home” to the party, which is “part of [his] DNA.”
On Saturday, Likud primary candidate and economist Shlomo Maoz took it upon himself to visit Kahlon’s mother in the working- class Hadera neighborhood of Givat Olga, and to ask her to convince her son to remain in the party.
Part of Kahlon’s electoral appeal is his success in working his way up from an underprivileged background, eventually entering politics and reaching a ministerial position.
By Saturday evening, Kahlon had already told associates that he would not form a party. “I never meant to harm the Likud,” the minister told them.
Other parties saw Kahlon’s decision as an opportunity to attack the Likud’s social credentials.
“Now, as we see again and again, there is only one social force that is reliable and strong and cares about the public – the Labor Party,” its chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich said. “Spins come and go, but the public is not stupid and knows who will really form a government that cares about its citizens who are poor or in the middle class, and not just the wealthy.”
According to Yacimovich, 8 percent of Likud voters and 5% of Yisrael Beytenu supporters have moved to Labor. She called for anyone who is “sick of Liberman and Netanyahu’s insensitivity to join Labor and be part of real social change.”
Shas said that “Kahlon’s decision not to form a party to represent the poor and Sephardi people does not change the fact that in the coming election, whoever is looking for a party that cares about the weak, Jewish tradition and the State of Israel’s Jewish character has only one place to turn – the strong, united Shas.”