Both the ruling Likud and Zehut parties confirmed on Wednesday that they are close to a deal that would see Zehut drop out of September’s Knesset race in exchange for a ministerial position following the elections.
Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin, who met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, told Army Radio that the two had discussed the “cancellation of cannabis reform” and that “if we reach agreements, I will withdraw my candidacy and receive a position in the cabinet.”
It was the two men’s second meeting since Friday.
“We are talking about saving lives here,” he said. “There is progress toward an agreement. I will bring this to Zehut’s membership. An opportunity has been created that I did not anticipate.”
Likud has been pressuring Zehut to drop out of the election in order to prevent right-wing votes from being “wasted,” as it is expected to fall short of the electoral threshold for entering the Knesset.
In trying to convince Feiglin to end his run, Netanyahu reportedly offered to cover all of Zehut’s campaign costs so far, give Feiglin an economics-related ministry in a future government, and legalize personal use of cannabis, a plank of Zehut’s platform.
In a statement Wednesday, Likud said that Netanyahu was “making great efforts to prevent wasted votes on the right. There is significant progress between Likud and Feiglin and Zehut. An agreement has not yet been reached and when it is reached, we will publish it.”
Likud added that the “essence of the agreement” related to free-market policies, which Zehut, as a quasi-libertarian party, has espoused.
Eitan Haberman, once the long-term chief legal adviser of the Likud party and currently serving in that role for its rival Yisrael Beytenu, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that a deal that would see Feiglin drop out of the race in exchange for a ministerial post could be considered election fraud and bribery, and, if implemented, could force a nationwide revote.