Likud ramps up efforts to prevent Kahlon departure

Shas sees rush to support Sephardic minister as proof they're necessary; Rivlin to Kahlon: Come home, you're part of Likud DNA.

Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon 311 (photo credit: Avi Hayun)
Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon 311
(photo credit: Avi Hayun)
Senior Likud Beytenu officials, including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, mediated between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon on Thursday – in a last-ditch attempt to convince Kahlon to stay in the Likud.
Kahlon, who announced two weeks ago that he was not running for the 19th Knesset but said he was staying in the Likud, is considering forming a more socially minded party. He presided over Monday’s Likud central committee meeting, which approved the joint Knesset run with Yisrael Beytenu.
“Come home. You’re part of the Likud’s DNA,” Rivlin, who is close to Kahlon, told the minister in a phone conversation on Thursday afternoon.
The Knesset speaker also asked Netanyahu not to give up hope, saying there was still a chance to “bring Kahlon home.”
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman’s spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that he was also trying to persuade Netanyahu and Kahlon to meet and that he had offered Kahlon one of his party’s top spots on the joint Likud Beytenu Knesset candidates list.

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Netanyahu’s close associate and former chief of staff Natan Eshel met with Kahlon on Thursday night, according to Channel 2 News. Eshel would not comment on the report, and said he was not aware of any effort on the prime minister’s part to keep Kahlon in the Likud.
At press time, Kahlon had yet to make a decision, and was waiting for the results of a second poll he commissioned – after one on Tuesday night gave his theoretical party 20 seats. Should the second poll show his party getting 10 or more spots in the next Knesset, Kahlon’s allies say he will definitely establish a party.
A Geocartography Institute poll on Thursday showed a Kahlon-led party getting 10 seats in the next Knesset.
Meanwhile, several Likud ministers and MKs contacted Kahlon about joining his new party, as did Prof.
Manuel Trajtenberg, who chaired the Committee for Socioeconomic Change that the prime minister established after the social justice protests of summer 2011.
The Likud primary race is tight this year, with more than 110 candidates vying for 25 Likud spots in the Likud Beytenu list, according to Thursday’s Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll.
However, MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, a close ally of Kahlon, said in several interviews that he would stay in the Likud, even if the latter asked him to join a new party.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) hinted at the rumors of Kahlon’s departure during a panel at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya on Thursday.
“There is a phenomenon, which I see as negative, in politics, which is splitting and splitting and splitting parties in the political map.
Every election new parties pop up; some survive one or two terms and some not at all,” Steinitz said. “After the unity deal in the Likud [with Yisrael Beytenu], I said that I see uniting political powers as a positive thing for the State of Israel, preventing coalition blackmail.”
Meanwhile, maverick Shas MK Haim Amsalem confirmed that his associates and Kahlon’s spoke recently.
One possibility the sides discussed was for Kahlon to join Amsalem’s Am Shalem party.
In an interview with Channel 2 News, Amsalem said “the probability exists.”
Sources close to Kahlon confirmed the meeting, but said the minister was unlikely to join Am Shalem.
A spokesman for Arye Deri told The Jerusalem Post that reports that the joint Shas leader met with Kahlon on Thursday were not true.
Earlier, Deri sounded a note of criticism over how Shas had operated during his 13-year absence from politics.
Responding to a question about gaps in socioeconomic status in the country, Deri said that “Shas has not done enough” in this regard.
“We will do more, but I admit we should have done more, this is what I’m here for,” he said, adding, however, that the situation would have been even worse if Shas would not have been in the government.
Speaking at a conference on local government, joint Shas leader Interior Minister Eli Yishai noted cynically what he described as a rush by various political parties to represent Sephardim and the weaker sectors of society.
Kahlon is Sephardi.
“The march [among political parties] to search for Sephardi representatives to adorn a Knesset [electoral] list is a racist signal that proves the necessity of Shas,” he claimed. “Shas advances Sephardim and the weak sectors of society, and does not ask that [anyone else] will do so.”
“I’m happy that everyone is copying Shas’s slogan of social [justice] ahead of the elections, maybe after the elections we’ll ask them for royalties,” Yishai continued.
“I only hope that they will remember that [they are for] social [justice] after the elections as well, and not as has happened in the past with various parties that are mentioned [only] in the annals of history, or...[by] those who are destined to enter them,” he added.