Kahlon Turns Down Netanyahu Offer

YERUSHALAYIM -

A potentially election-winning maneuver by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fell through on Thursday, as Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon turned down an offer to run on a combined ticket, according to Haaretz.

Netanyahu, whose Likud party has been slipping in the polls behind Zionist Camp (Herzog-Livni), reportedly invited Kahlon to be his next finance minister, along with ministerial posts for other Kulana MKs.

With Jewish Home already apparently a sure backer, Netanyahu could have greatly strengthened his chances of securing a majority with Kulanu’s swing votes going to him instead of the center-left.

For Kahlon, it was a matter of credibility. Just this week he was quoted as saying that between Netanyahu and Herzog, he would always choose to believe Herzog.

Kahlon angrily walked out on Netanyahu two years ago, after the latter reneged on a promise to appoint him as head of the Israel Lands Authority.

“I don’t zig-zag,” Kahlon reportedly said. “My positions are known, as is the way I do things.”

Kulanu declined comment on the story.

Meanwhile, a Netanyahu offer was accepted by another senior politician. The prime minister surprised a meeting of the Likud Secretariat on Thursday by announcing that former minister Bennie Begin would run on the 11th slot on the party’s list, reserved for a candidate of the chairman’s choice.

Begin did not serve in the previous Knesset after he was narrowly defeated for the last  realistic slot on the party’s list. His candidacy was approved unanimously at the meeting.

Jewish Home party chairman Naftali Bennett fared less well with a personal pick of former soccer star Eli Ohana. The choice of Ohana, who had supported the withdrawal from Gaza and who played on Shabbos for years, outraged many party members.

Rabbinical figures affiliated with Jewish Home threatened to leave the party; Zvulun Kalfa, of the Tekuma faction, actually resigned the joint list with Jewish Home because of Ohana.

Ohana announced on Thursday that he was bowing out. “I did not expect the public storm the followed my entry into political life, and I don’t feel at this stage of my life that I’m built for it,” Ohana said in a statement.

Also on Thursday, right-wing parties petitioned the Central Election Committee disqualify the Arab Israeli Knesset member Hanin Zoabi from running in the elections.

Zoabi, a vociferous supporter of Israel’s enemies, just finished out a six-month ban against her participating in Knesset debates due to inflammatory statements, and is under investigation by the attorney general’s office for incitement to violence.

The move to bar Zoabi from the elections on March 17 was sponsored by Yisrael Beitenu, Likud and Shas, which cited the law disqualifying parliamentary candidates who reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state or promote terrorism.

All Knesset parties were required to submit their final Knesset lists by Thursday at 10 PM.