New Likud Chair: I’ve Come Not to Hurt Netanyahu, But to Help Him

YERUSHALAYIM -
New Likud Central Committee head Haim Katz. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90
New Likud Central Committee Head Chaim Katz. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Although he wasn’t Binyamin Netanyahu’s first choice, Welfare Minister Chaim Katz will have no problem working with the prime minister in helping to prepare the Likud for the next elections. As the newly-elected leader of the Likud Central Committee – the power base of any aspiring Likud politician – Katz said that despite rumors, he was not planning a “coup or any other move against the prime minister. The reports and rumors in the media are ridiculous,” Katz said on Army Radio.

Katz was elected chairman of the Central Committee in elections Tuesday, beating out Netanyahu favorite Tzachi Hanegbi. Along with that decision, Likud members voted to move up the Likud primaries to February, as the prime minister had proposed. The fact that the elections were happening so soon, he said, meant that even if anyone – like former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar – wanted to challenge Netanyahu, “there isn’t any time to organize anything anyway,” said Katz.

The rumors about Katz’s loyalties may be due to the positive relationship he is known to have with Sa’ar, who resigned the party in 2014, ostensibly for personal reasons but, according to analysts, because of his frustration in being unable to convince Netanyahu to see things his way on several key security and social issues. Katz is also known to be close to President Reuven Rivlin, another Netanyahu rival. Katz himself has a huge constituency in the Likud, and the prime minister is said to fear that Katz himself could emerge as a rival.

But all that is water under the bridge now, said Katz. “My purpose on this job is to strengthen the prime minister and the Likud Central Committee. My job is to run events and revive the local branches of the party in communities around the country. I have no desire to challenge Binyamin Netanyahu.”