Friday’s press is packed with anticipation of resigning Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon’s announcement whether or not to form his own party for the upcoming elections. Polls, rumors, and quotes from Kahlon and his contenders fill the front pages.
Haaretz reports that Netanyahu is working to convince Kahlon not to found a new social issues party in advance of the coming elections. Polls found that a Kahlon party could win 10-20 Knesset seats, but Kahlon was still on the fence. The paper reports that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman were trying to bring Kahlon back into the fold.
“You’re part of the Likud’s DNA, come back home,” Rivlin reportedly told Kahlon.
According to Haaretz, Likud party members, particularly Netanyahu, fear a Kahlon party would earn seats at Likud’s expense, not at the expense of centrist parties. According to the poll published by Channel 2, Kahlon would take six seats from Likud, four from Labor, and one from Shas and Yesh Atid apiece. Israel Hayom, however, cites another poll in which Kahlon only takes one seat from Likud and the remainder from Shas, Kadima, and Labor. Though it mentions the Channel 2 poll, it does not mention the poor prognosis for Likud.
Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Shas party members are also concerned about Kahlon stealing votes from their voter base. According to members of the religious-Mizrahi party, if Kahlon’s party presents itself as a Mizrahi-social issues party, Shas will have to change its campaign tactics.
Yedioth Ahronoth quotes Kahlon saying, “I am right on the border, both right-wing in foreign policy and left-wing on social issues. I can gain support from a broad population.”
A poll published in Yedioth Ahronoth showed that Kahlon would win 13 seats in the Knesset and take five seats from Likud, two from Shas and three from Yesh Atid.
Sima Kadmon writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that while Likud would suffer badly if Kahlon forms his own party, the biggest loser would be the Kadima party. “The largest party in the current Knesset would not pass” the electoral threshold, Kadmon writes. “Even the Independence party passes it.” The crux, however, is that “Netanyahu has something to worry about: Kahlon would take Likud to school. … It is worthwhile for Netanyahu to roll up his sleeves and try to salvage the situation, if that’s even possible at all.”
Kahlon is expected to make a final decision on Sunday.
Maariv goes after Kahlon’s record as a promoter of social issues which, it argues, he is not. A review of his voting record in the Knesset by an organization called “The Social Guard” found that Kahlon voted against a variety of socially conscious measures and did not advance such ideals as welfare minister. His overall grade was “anti-social.”
Haaretz editorial writer Yoel Marcus says that Kahlon’s announcement “that he intends to retire from political life stemmed, according to confirmed information, from his having found out about the joint list with Lieberman.” He adds that if Kahlon is serious about his opposition to the Biberman alliance, that he should step into the ring for the coming elections.
Meanwhile in the Kadima party, Chairman Shaul Mofaz launched his new campaign slogan: “Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] will entagle us,” with a picture of a mushroom cloud erupting behind it. Israel Hayom points out the similarity to the 1964 Lyndon Johnson “Daisy” presidential campaign ad of a similar nature. It quotes a Mofaz advisor saying the campaign team was only aware of the Johnson campaign ad after designing Mofaz’s explosive slogan.
“In the past four years the prime minister has dealt with one issue only: bombing Iran. Nothing else interests him. Not society, not the economy, nothing. Just a messianic fervor to attack and bomb Iran’s nuclear program,” the paper quotes Mofaz saying at a press conference on Thursday.
“He has only dealt with this in the past four years. Anyone who has been in the Prime Minister’s Office knows this has turned into an obsession with him.”
Maariv reports on a international crisis brewing at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Although their story is exclusive and fascinating, and features on the front page of the paper, it gets buried on the last pages of the weekend section. According to the Maariv report, the Jerusalem municipality has decided to begin charging the church for its water usage — something that was never done by the Ottomans, the British, the Jordanians, or Israel.
The Jerusalem water company, Gihon, has sent the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate a bill for NIS 9 million for the past four years of water usage, plus interest. Despite negotiations, Gihon has demanded the money and put a hold on the patriarchate’s bank account, effectively bankrupting the church.
“We can’t even pay for toilet paper. Nothing. Gihon declared war on us,” a senior member of the patriarchate said.
The patriarchate has appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, and will dispatch next week messages to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Greek and Cypriot heads of state, and President Barack Obama.
For something completely different, Haaretz reports that an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem has offered an alternative to a rabbinate kashrut certificate. Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz has supported a number of cafes and restaurants who have decided to maintain an acceptable level of kashrut but not pay the fees to have their facilities inspected by the rabbinate.
The Chief Rabbinate claims that presenting a place as kosher without kashrut inspectors is fraudulent. The paper reports that a protest will be held on Friday in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood in support of non-regulated kosher establishments.
According to the organizers, “the time has come to advance an alternative to the chief rabbinate’s exclusive and discriminatory monopoly on kashrut.”