A number of senior Likud ministers gave their vocal backing on Monday evening to a convicted criminal who is running in the upcoming local election in Herzliya.
Rafi Chaim-Kedoshim, a prominent figure in the central city’s Likud party branch who has served four prison terms and is considered to be part of a local crime family, hosted his campaign launch with many members of the government present.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Culture Minister Miki Zohar, Energy Minister Israel Katz, Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel-Atbaryan and a range of other Likud MKs and figures were all spotted in attendance at the event.
Kedoshim, a member of the Kedoshim crime family, has served four prison sentences over convictions for acts of violence, kidnapping and extortion. He was also involved in cashing checks in the gray market. According to Channel 12 news, his most recent jail term was about 20 years ago.
He has become a prominent figure in Likud’s Herzliya branch in recent years after signing up hundreds of new members to the party.
He hosted a Purim gathering earlier this year attended by a number of Likud ministers, including Justice Minister Yariv Levin, which raised eyebrows at the time.
חידון לשבת: "וואלק חצי ממשלה הביא לפה" – מי האיש שהזניק את הקריירה הפוליטית שלו הערב? pic.twitter.com/qreWq9dRxw
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“Let them write headlines,” Katz said in remarks at the campaign launch, in a video shared online, seemingly referencing the party’s support for a criminal. “There’s something to see here — a man who took his fate into his own hands, is doing an act of kindness, a public activist… I’m proud to be here.”
Katz said he was speaking “in the name of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the name of the government of Israel — we need a strong Likud in Herzliya.”
Kedoshim is running at the head of the Likud slate for Herzliya City Council, and according to local reports has his eye on a spot as deputy mayor.
In his own comments at the event, Zohar suggested that the ex-con had “changed his ways,” and called on residents to vote for him.
“You have to give everyone a chance,” Zohar said in comments reported by the Ynet news site. “Vote for Rafi, he’s worthy. There are people who get up from the not-simple situation he was in — and you have to give everyone a chance. Rafi is doing great work for residents of the city.”
In his own comments, Kedoshim said that “because of my past, there is a future — there is a future for all the youth who have gotten caught up in criminal activity, whom I have been supporting for a decade.”
A small group of anti-government protesters gathered outside the event in Herzliya on Monday evening, shouting “shame” and “go home” at ministers who arrived.
Earlier this year, Kedoshim was filmed cursing at anti-government protesters in Herzliya while riding a motorcycle, before speeding off.
His son, Israel Kedoshim, was convicted in 2017 of being connected to the attempted murder of Eli Tabib, the former owner of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club.