Meet the potential defectors Netanyahu wants on the Right

Who might Likud try to recruit? What would potential defectors seek, and what would Likud be willing to give them?

Amir Peretz (R) and Orly Levy Abecassis (L) (photo credit: ROY ALIMA/ FLASH 90)
Amir Peretz (R) and Orly Levy Abecassis (L)
(photo credit: ROY ALIMA/ FLASH 90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates immediately began seeking defectors when exit polls indicated he was one or two seats away from obtaining a right-wing blocking majority, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Due to his three criminal corruption cases, there does not appear to be an entire opposition party willing to join a Netanyahu-led government, while drafting a defector could be a challenge because of the heavy price.
The rules for drafting defectors were changed after the Oslo Bet agreement was passed in 1995 thanks to three right-wing Tzomet party MKs who joined the Left. One, future convicted drug smuggler Gonen Segev, became a minister; another, Alex Goldfarb, became a deputy minister and received a Mitsubishi.
Dr. Assaf Shapira, director of the political reform program at the Israeli Democracy Institute, said defectors would face significant sanctions. They would be unable to serve as ministers or deputy ministers in the current Knesset, run in the next election with a party represented in the current Knesset, establish a new faction or join an existing one.
Nevertheless, a defector would be able to fill all parliamentary roles, as per the Knesset house rules, such as chairing or serving on any of the Knesset committees. If an independent party decides to split from a joint list after an election, it would not face any sanctions.
So who might Likud try to recruit? What would potential defectors seek, and what would Likud be willing to give them?
Orly Levy-Abecassis
She heads the Gesher Party that ran together with Labor and Meretz in Monday’s election. Because Gesher is an independent party, if she left the joint faction and joined the coalition, she would not face any sanctions.
Levy-Abecassis left Yisrael Beytenu after she was not made a minister when the party joined the coalition, so she clearly has ambition. Her dream job is to be health minister.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who chaired the Likud’s campaign in the election, on Tuesday said she would make a terrific health minister. Her father, David Levy, was a Likud minister, so she would be welcomed in the party.
Omer Yankelevich
A Blue and White MK, she was the second haredi (ultra-Orthodox) woman in the Knesset after former Meretz MK Tzvia Greenfield. She is seen as a prime suspect to leave, because in a tape of Blue and White strategist Israel Bachar that was revealed last week, he said she believes Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is a dumb loser unfit to be prime minister.
Likud has threatened Yankelevich that if she does not defect, more Bachar recordings would be revealed that will be embarrassing for her, Haaretz reported on Tuesday. Both Yankelevich and Likud denied the report. But sources who know Yankelevich well said she had personal issues she wants to keep hidden.
As an individual defector, Yankelevich would face sanctions, but running for the next Knesset with Blue and White appears unlikely anyway. A plum post in the Knesset could make it worth her while.
Orly Fruman
A member of former Likud minister Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem Party, which is part of Blue and White, she was appointed director-general of the Culture and Sport Ministry under Likud minister Limor Livnat in 2009. She has right-wing views and caused an uproar on Tuesday when she called on Blue and White to negotiate entering a Netanyahu-led government.
The Knesset Education and Culture Committee chairmanship could be hers if she joins the coalition.
Amir Peretz
The Labor leader led the party to only six seats in September and no more than three as part of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz list on Monday. He shaved his trademark mustache to emphasize that he would not join a Netanyahu-led government ahead of the September election.
But that was then, and now this is undoubtedly his last term in the Knesset. He turns 68 next week.
Perhaps returning to the Defense Ministry could be enough to woo Peretz, who has served as a minister in a Netanyahu-led government before.