Possible Likud ministers want Shalom out

Shalom claims Netanyahu promised him Likud's top portfolio and that any other one would be step back.

silvan shalom 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
silvan shalom 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Efforts to mediate between Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud nemesis, MK Silvan Shalom, continued on Wednesday, but Likud ministerial candidates admitted in closed conversations they hope Shalom makes good on his threat to remain outside the cabinet. Shalom claims Netanyahu promised him the Likud's top portfolio. He has said in closed conversations that any job other than foreign minister would be a step back for him and therefore he would prefer to remain outside the cabinet. The three top Likud portfolios are finance, which Netanyahu is expected to keep for himself; defense, which will go to MK Moshe Ya'alon; and education, which has been offered to Netanyahu's No. 2 in Likud, MK Gideon Sa'ar. In mediation talks with Shalom, he has been offered the party's top remaining portfolio - the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry - bolstered by adding additional responsibilities, and perhaps another full ministry, inside the same portfolio. But several Likud MKs are eying that post if Shalom turns it down. MK Yuval Steinitz, who has been the closest MK to Netanyahu for a decade, is convinced that he will be given the position. MK Limor Livnat and economically-minded MKs Yisrael Katz and Moshe Kahlon also want the ministry, which is considered the top economic portfolio after Finance. Netanyahu will allocate the Likud's portfolios on Tuesday or Wednesday, immediately before presenting his government to President Shimon Peres and the swearing-in ceremony for ministers at the Knesset, both of which are expected to take place on Wednesday. The ministerial appointments are expected to indicate the hierarchy in Likud according to Netanyahu. Whoever receives the industry, trade and labor post will be seen as the top Likud MK in Netanyahu's eyes after himself and Sa'ar. "If Shalom doesn't join the cabinet, everyone gets a promotion," a Likud MK said. Sources close to Netanyahu denied reports that Steinitz would receive the Communications portfolio. Steinitz has experience in the field as the former honorary president of Israel's Media Watch and the initiator of the organization's Israeli prize for media criticism. Senior sources in Israel Beiteinu said last week that American businessman Ron Lauder, who is close to Netanyahu and is one of the owners of Channel 10, pressured the Likud leader not to let the ministry come under the control of Israel Beiteinu. Israel Radio reported that Lauder wanted the portfolio to stay as close as possible to Netanyahu and therefore Steinitz would get the post. Netanyahu is expected to appoint a minister-without-portfolio to serve under him in the Finance Ministry. Katz, Kahlon and MK Gilad Erdan have been mentioned as possibilities for that job. But it is still possible that Netanyahu will appoint a finance minister who is not himself, in which case the job could go to MK Dan Meridor, but not to Shalom. Sources close to Netanyahu said he was upset by a Haaretz story on Tuesday in which Shalom was quoted as telling a confidant that the "apparent direction in which the Netanyahu government is heading is worrying." The report said Shalom was worried about a Netanyahu's government's apparent approach on law enforcement, foreign policy and socioeconomic issues. A source close to Netanyahu called the report "sad but not surprising."