Likud Kulanu Merger

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Jim Hollander/Pool via Reuters)

In a bid for an even bigger mandate in a second election round, the Likud secretariat authorized on Tuesday a proposal by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to run with Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party in a joint list.

“Running together will give us 40 mandates,” Netanyahu predicted.

In what might have been a hint that rerun elections will be averted, he added that “the more we prepare for an election the less likely it is that there will be an election.” The reasoning is that Liberman will be more inclined to compromise given the prospect of a sweeping Likud victory that would take votes from Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, possibly leaving him out of the next Knesset.

Minister of Science Ofir Akunis arrives at a Likud party meeting to vote on uniting with Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party, Tuesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Kahlon confirmed the reports of a deal. “We have decided that if the elections for the 22nd Knesset are held [in September], the party will run on a joint slate with Likud in the elections. We will all continue serving as a socioeconomic, nationalist right-wing party,” he said.

Under the new arrangement, Kahlon will take the 5th slot on the party’s list, Eli Cohen the 15th spot, Yifat Biton the 29th spot and Roy Folkman the 35th spot, The Times of Israel reported.

The measure passed despite opposition from several Likud ministers and MKs who objected to being reassigned lower positions on the electoral list in order to make room for the Kulanu MKs.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely welcomed the announcement, saying: “The Likud secretariat’s decision today to include Kahlon and three other MKs from the Likud is part of the understanding that it is not possible for small parties to take captive an entire country. A large ruling party that cannot be blackmailed is a national interest,” she noted, a reference to the current crisis caused by Avigdor Liberman’s 5-seat party.

Meanwhile, there was no progress on the Liberman front. A Likud spokesman said that Liberman has rejected every offer presented to him to break the stalemate on the chareidi draft, according to The Times of Israel on Tuesday evening.

In addition, the secretariat passed a proposal from Netanyahu that will guarantee that he will continue as chairman in the event of new elections. This was done to counter fears that MK Gideon Saar has been plotting a coup to take over the leadership of the party.

Feeding those fears, Saar was photographed yesterday sitting in the Knesset cafeteria with Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who is currently refusing to agree to enter the coalition, but presumably would show more flexibility if someone other than Netanyahu were heading the party. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has also said that he would be willing to sit in a coalition with Likud, sans Netanyahu.

About 40 Blue and White party activists held a protest outside Kahlon’s home on Tuesday evening, according to Globes.

The went to remind him that he had promised repeatedly that Kulanu would continue to be an indpendent party, and “spineless” was among the names they called him on Tuesday after the news that he had finally given in to Likud pressure.

In response, Kahlon sent a message to his supporters defending his decision: “As finance minister, I can say with full confidence that too much money would be wasted [on a second election round],” he said. “We need those hundreds of millions in other places.”


Updated Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 2:26 pm updated info