Knives out in Likud over PM's allocation of ministries

Netanyahu keeping mum on preferred candidate for next Knesset speaker; Edelstein likely to take Rivlin's place.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The knives are out in the Likud, with MKs ranking high on the party list expressing disappointment on Sunday at not receiving ministerial positions, and MK Reuven Rivlin possibly dropping out of the race for Knesset speaker after losing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s support.
Rivlin, who was speaker of the 16th and 18th Knessets, may not run for the position in the 19th Knesset, as Netanyahu has yet to publicly indicate his support.
The former Knesset speaker’s spokesman denied reports of a conversation in which the prime minister told Rivlin that he would not back him. In fact, the spokesman said, Netanyahu’s chief of staff Gil Shefer promised him on Thursday that the prime minister wants Rivlin to be speaker.
Still, Netanyahu himself has not said anything publicly, and “his silence speaks,” the spokesman said.
While Rivlin has yet to drop out of the Knesset speaker race, he does not plan to fight the prime minister’s decision.
A Likud Beytenu faction vote on the next Knesset speaker is likely to take place on Monday, and the result will be brought to the plenum for authorization.
Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein has been campaigning to take Rivlin’s place for several months, and expressed confidence on Sunday that he has a majority in the faction and would win even if Rivlin stays in the race.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman supports Edelstein, and with him come 10 more votes.
One high-ranking MK pointed out that Rivlin and Netanyahu often disagreed, with the former speaking out against Likud-proposed legislation, and that Rivlin may now be paying the price.
In a testament to Rivlin’s popularity as Knesset speaker with lawmakers across the political spectrum, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) came out in support of Rivlin continuing in the position, saying his rejection was reminiscent of the political television drama House of Cards.
“This is sticking a knife in [Rivlin’s] back. It’s a test for the representatives of ‘new politics’ like Yesh Atid and others, who should get involved to make sure that Rivlin – with whom I have massive diplomatic and ideological disagreements, but who has a courageous civil philosophy – should not be dismissed in such a callous way,” Tibi said.
Meanwhile, the younger generation of Likud MKs, who ranked high in the party primary – Ze’ev Elkin, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Yariv Levin and others – began to express frustration at reports that Netanyahu does not plan to appoint any new ministers from within his party.
Danon expressed careful optimism that he – ninth on the party list – could get a ministry instead of MK Tzachi Hanegbi, 26th in the ranking, to whom Netanyahu promised a portfolio.
“I hope the prime minister will consider the results of the primary,” Danon said. “He needs to [go by the party list], because the Likud is a democracy.”
Danon called for Netanyahu to realize that there is a new generation of lawmakers in the Likud, and that not all of the old guard should be left in place.
“Netanyahu can’t ignore what Likud voters want,” Danon said.
MK Tzipi Hotovely, the highest-ranking woman in the Likud, attacked Netanyahu’s intentions more directly, saying that he was making a mistake.
“It’s a mistake to go for old politics and recycling the old list of ministers. At the end of the day, the public will look at the Likud’s list and say, if the government doesn’t change, then why did we vote in the primary? In a way, this shows lack of faith in the [primary] voting process,” Hotovely told Galei Yisrael Radio.
She mentioned Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat – 27th on the party’s 31-seat list – as someone who should no longer be part of the government.
“Thousands of votes separate me and Limor Livnat,” Hotovely pointed out.