Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is planning to quit politics after the upcoming elections, telling his associates he no longer feels challenged, a report said Sunday.
It was the second time in recent weeks that Kahlon, who denied the report, had to fend off rumors that he is set to leave the political arena.
Kahlon has served as finance minister since 2015. A former head of the Kulanu party, he is running on a joint ticket with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in Tuesday’s election after his party lost more than half of its support in the April vote, winning just four Knesset seats.
At an election campaign stop Wednesday in the city of Hadera that was also attended by Netanyahu, Kahlon told longtime friends he had no interest in staying on as finance minister, a post that has been promised to him by the premier, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday.
Kahlon also reportedly cited his frustration with the collapse of Kulanu.
“I have no more challenges,” the report quoted Kahlon as saying. “What will I do? Pass another [annual] budget? That doesn’t challenge me.”
Haaretz quoted two sources as saying Kahlon had looked “finished, exhausted and lacking motivation.”
He was said to explain the timing of his expected departure from politics as an attempt to quit while he was ahead — sought after by Likud and a candidate to stay on as finance minister — rather than immediately in the wake of his party’s failure in the previous elections.
Kahlon denied the report in a comment to the left-leaning paper, calling it a “recycled story.” In a tweet, he said: “The left wants me to quit but I am here to stay and bring achievements to the State of Israel. Now, in Likud, I have ten times the power to work for you, citizens of Israel.”
Earlier this month, Kahlon was recorded telling a resident of southern Israel he had decided to quit because “98 percent” of his orders are ignored, in what the treasury head later maintained was a joke.
According to Channel 13, which aired the recording, Kahlon made the remark on the phone with a business owner from the Gaza periphery, who was protesting the government holdup of funds designed to compensate for a flareup in violence from the enclave.
“Listen, you want to hear something? Ninety-eight percent of my instructions are not implemented,” Kahlon says in the recording.
“So why are you a minister?” asked the business owner.
“That’s why I’m quitting,” Kahlon replied.
In a later statement to the network, Kahlon said the remark was “said humorously” and denied his intention to resign.
Kahlon began his Knesset career in 2003 as a lawmaker for Likud, but took a break from politics in 2013 and formed Kulanu the following year as a more moderate and social-minded alternative to the ruling party.