Facing New Elections, Parties Hit the Ground Running

View of the Knesset. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

As the various political parties are gearing up for the snap elections called for Nov. 1, they have begun stating their platforms and political demands, as those holding primaries are courting high-profile candidates.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who currently heads the Finance Ministry, said at the weekend that when joining the next government, he plans to demand the highly sought-after Interior Affairs portfolio that, in a right-wing government, is traditionally handed to Shas.

The Interior portfolio covers a wide range of areas crucial to daily life in Israel, and the interior minister has significant control over immigration policy, municipal issues such as licensing businesses to operate on Shabbos, entry visas, and a host of personal status matters that a key issued on Yisrael Beytenu’s platform.

“We’ve let go of this portfolio for far too long. Shas had it for years, then Ayelet Shaked [Yamina] and Gideon Sa’ar [New Hope] – all of whom are conservatives. It’s time for a different voice,” a party insider said, according to Yisrael Hayom.

He added that the portfolio “touches on issues that are very important to our constituents and we cannot ignore that anymore. We’re done letting Shas have it and do whatever they want. It’s time for us to have a say as well.”

Over at Blue and White, party leader Benny Gantz is said to be courting two high-profile figures to join the party and broaden its electoral appeal: former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Livni is said to be “considering” the offer, a source familiar with the issue said.

Eizenkot is in demand by several parties. The former chief of staff, who has yet to officially announce a political bid, has already spoken with Labor leader Merav Michaeli and is also being courted by Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid.

Gantz, who seeks to pose an alternative for the premiership not only to Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu but also to Lapid as head of the Center-Left bloc, is also said to be considering joining forces with Sa’ar.

Polls predict that New Hope will either scrape by the four-seat electoral threshold or fail to cross it. Sa’ar had been rumored to be mulling a joint bid with Yamina, which as former PM Naftali Bennett has stepped down as its leader, chances of that are slim.

Gantz’s office claimed the reports were “not true.”

Yamina’s situation is also unclear. Upon announcing his exit from politics, Bennett handed over the reins of the party to his No. 2 – Ayelet Shaked.

A recent poll found that under her leadership the party could secure five Knesset seats, allowing it to join either bloc.

However, the party faces an uncertain future, as three of its current six MKs – Idit Silman, Amichai Chikli and Nir Orbach – have already departed its ranks and it is unclear whether Shaked plans to hold primaries, run independently or seek a joint slate.

Likud is expected to hold expedited primaries ahead of the election but has yet to announce their date.

No one is expected to challenge Netanyahu for the position of party chairman, and the focus is likely to be on the slate he will head – where the race is emerging as crowded.

Joining familiar names like Yisrael Katz, Miri Regev and David Amsalem, are longtime party members such as former U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon, current U.N. envoy Gilad Erdan, as well as several former MKs who placed too low on Likud’s roster during the last primaries and didn’t make it into parliament.

Several high-profile individuals are said to be considering a political bid as part of the Likud, but it remains unclear whether Netanyahu would afford them reserved slots – a move likely to shuffle the deck.

Among those who could be in the running are former Israeli Navy Commander Vice Adm. (ret.) Eliezer Marom; Gilad Sharon – the son of late PM Ariel Sharon; former IDF Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch; former chief editor of Yisrael Hayom Boaz Bismuth, former National Economic Council head Prof. Avi Simchon, and Zehut faction leader Moshe Feiglin.

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