Yanai next hot political commodity

Former Teva CEO says he ended his post to enter "public life"; Yanai could join prospective party headed by Lapid.

Yanai 311 (photo credit: Bloomberg News)
Yanai 311
(photo credit: Bloomberg News)
Teva Pharmaceuticals CEO Shlomo Yanai announced his resignation on Monday. It will only take effect in May, but this hasn’t stopped politicians from multiple parties from salivating over the major-general-turned-businessman, who is expected to be the next hot commodity in Israeli politics.
While Yanai, 59, said he was departing from his post in order to enter “public life,” he has not been specific about where he is heading. One member of Knesset who considers him a close friend said Yanai did not even mention that he was considering politics in a recent meeting.
Shlomo Yanai to resign as Teva CEO in May
“Politics is just one of my options,” Yanai told Channel 10. “Public service encompasses a lot of different spheres.” In media interviews, Yanai even declined to reveal at what end of the political map his allegiances lie until he finishes five months guiding his successor, Jeremy Levin.
“There have been overtures [from parties] and of course I speak to people, but I will only seriously consider what to do when I complete my term at Teva,” he told Channel 2.
One option for Yanai could be a prospective party led by journalist Yair Lapid. A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast on Israel Radio on Thursday predicted that such a party could win 15 Knesset seats.
The most serious options for Yanai among current parties include Kadima and Labor. But Yanai’s future in either party could depend on its leader.
Yanai meets regularly with current Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, but he is said to have poor relations with her challenger, MK Shaul Mofaz, who was appointed IDF chief of General Staff in 1998 when he competed for the post.
“He is a terrific, serious guy, and of course we would welcome him,” Kadima faction head Dalia Itzik said.
Yanai’s friends in Labor include his former commander, Amram Mitzna, and MK Avishay Braverman, who built ties with him when he was president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Yanai was OC Central Command.
But the multimillionaire could be scared off by Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich’s fight against CEOs with bloated salaries.
In the Likud, Yanai has a good relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose national security adviser, Ya’acov Amidror, is Yanai’s brother-in-law. Channel 10 reported that Yanai helped Netanyahu avert a crisis with Germany over submarines Israel had purchased that were being held back for political reasons.
Officials familiar with Yanai’s views said he favors concessions to the Palestinians that would make him less of a good fit with the Likud.
But ministers in the party said they want him anyway.
“He would be welcome in Likud or any other party, but he is not Meretz,” Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon said. “He is not as left-wing as people think.”