In a surprise move on the final day for which party slates can be submitted for the March 17 elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday named Benny Begin to the 11th slot on the Likud list.
Begin, a respected former minister and son of the first Likud prime minister Menachem Begin, lost his Knesset seat after failing to win a sufficiently high slot on the 2013 Likud slate, and did not compete in the party primaries this time.
Netanyahu had toyed with several other potential candidates for the two slots on the list left open for his preferences. He placed terrorism expert Dr. Anat Berko in the 23rd slot. Likud is currently polling at around 23 seats.
The appointments were unanimously approved by the Likud Central Committee.
Netanyahu praised Begin as a symbol of the Likud party and its values, and a man deeply committed to the State of Israel and its security, Israel Radio reported.
Also Thursday, Netanyahu reportedly made a last-ditch attempt to woo former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party into running on a joint list with Likud, as a counterforce to the Zionist Camp, the joint Labor-Kulanu list that is leading the polls at around 25 seats. Kulanu is polling at 8-10 seats.
A mediator on behalf of Netanyahu presented Kahlon with a detailed proposal for a joint, Haaretz reported, but Kahlon rejected it. The offer reportedly included promises of several portfolios in the next government, with Kahlon himself as finance minister — the job Kahlon has said he most wants. Kahlon’s people wanted seven or eight slots in the first 20 places on the joint list, a price said to be too steep for the Likud to pay.