With the announcement by Moshe Kahlon that he is leaving politics, there is an opening in Binyamin Netanyahu’s government – that of finance minister, and according to reports, the Prime Minister intends to appoint Likud MK Nir Barkat to that job even before the March 2nd elections. The appointment, Likud insiders told Kan News, is intended to help “swaying” voters make up their minds on choosing the Likud rather than Blue and White. There has been no official comment on the possible appointment of Barkat from the Likud.
“If Benny Gantz forms a government we know who his finance minister is going to be,” the report quoted Likud officials as saying. “Avi Nissenkorn is a dyed-in-the-wool socialist who, if he had his way, would impose huge taxes on Israelis and reverse the financial and economic progress we have made over the past decade. Voters are not stupid, and they realize that if they get someone like Barkat as finance minister they will personally be a lot better off than they will be with Nissenkorn.”
The Likud is set to revive a campaign that it held against Nissenkorn before the September elections – accusing Blue and White of “hiding” Nissenkorn, fearing that he will lose them votes. During the previous election campaign, huge billboards in Tel Aviv featured an image of Nissenkorn, with a simple message: “I am the next finance minister of Israel.” Below that comment is the logo of Blue and White – but hidden at the very top of the billboard is a notice that it is sponsored by the Likud.
Nissenkorn, according to the Likud, was responsible for numerous strikes and labor actions that cost the Israeli economy billions, and is counting on the fact that Israelis will not want to put a former union boss in charge of their money. “Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, you have been trying to hide Avi Nissenkorm from the Israeli public, but as we all know he is your candidate for finance minister,” the Likud said in a statement. “So we put his name on a billboard. In the next election, Israelis will decide if they want the strong leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu with his promotion of free trade and a growing economy, or the weak rotation of Lapid and Gantz, with a ‘Histadrut economy’ complete with constant strikes.”
With that, the appointment of Barkat is not likely to go unchallenged. On Tuesday, Kan News reported that Likud activists received text messages decrying the appointment of Barkat to any ministry. Drawing on his history as a member of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s now defunct Kadima Party, and rumors that he worked with leftist groups when he was Yerushalayim mayor, the messages said that “anyone who appoints this leftist collaborator – who worked with the New Israel Fund – to be Finance Minister is slipping a leftist Trojan Horse into the Likud government.”
In July, Barkat claimed that the far-left New Israel Fund was sponsoring protests by Ethiopian activists after the death of Solomon Teka, who was shot by a police officer. In response, Miki Gitzin, head of the NIF said that Barkat himself was a patron and friend of the group. “He worked with the NIF to establish the Jerusalem Venture Partners investment firm. Let no one be fooled by his foolish echoing of the right-wing chorus against the NIF. He worked very well with us and the evidence is there for all to see,” Gitzin said.