Likud may be facing portfolio shortage

With 27 mandates and not the projected 35, some would-be ministers will remain outside the cabinet.

netanyahu pouting 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
netanyahu pouting 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The mood in the Likud improved on Wednesday after it became clearer that party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu could likely be entrusted with forming a government despite winning fewer mandates than Kadima. The Likud faction met in a positive atmosphere at the Knesset as Netanyahu updated the party's current and soon-to-be MKs on his coalition-building efforts. They celebrated their rise from 12 seats to 27 by taking over the legislature's largest faction room, which has been occupied for the last three years by Kadima. But the MKs have not yet forgotten mistakes made during the election campaign and they are gearing up for the battles ahead inside the party over portfolios in a prospective Likud-led government. When it appeared that the Likud would receive as many as 35 mandates, many Likud candidates became convinced that they would be ministers. But with the Likud winning only 27, some ministers-in-waiting will have to remain outside the cabinet. Israel Radio reported that former foreign minister Silvan Shalom was so intent on returning to his position that he has let Netanyahu know that if Kadima is given two top portfolios, they should be the Defense Ministry for Shaul Mofaz and the Finance Ministry for current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Former justice minister Dan Meridor complained privately that the Likud should have targeted Kadima supporters toward the end of the campaign instead of trying to take votes away from parties on the Right. Likud MKs blamed the party's showing on a campaign in which they were ignored in favor of new acquisitions, such as former science minister Bennie Begin and former chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon, and which saw large sums of money spent on the party's Web site and not on its Election Day ground campaign. "This was one of the biggest failures for us in years," a Likud official said. "We had the worst campaign in this election. We had a 10-seat lead over Kadima and they passed us up. They will teach in schools about how bad our campaign was." But campaign manager Ronnie Rimon released a statement explaining the party's successes and Kadima's failures. "The Likud won the election decisively," Rimon said. "We rose dramatically from 12 seats to 27. Kadima fell by a seat even after they stole seats from inside their [left-wing] camp. We have proven that the people of Israel want Netanyahu as prime minister." Netanyahu was reportedly upset that Labor Chairman Ehud Barak will likely leave the Defense Ministry and rehabilitate his party in the opposition. After declining a relatively easy chance to become prime minister in 2001 because of the makeup of the Knesset, Netanyahu is not expected have an easy time governing if he becomes prime minister with the Knesset elected on Tuesday. But his associates said he was comforted by the bottom line. "It would have been nice if we would have had a decisive victory, but at least the Right won a lot more seats than the Left and he knows that he's going to be the next prime minister," one said.