Top officials in the Likud party, including Justice Minister Yariv Levin, again flocked this week to the home of Rafi Kedoshim, the party’s candidate for mayor of Herzliya who has served four jail terms for his role in a crime family.
Footage shared on social media on Tuesday showed the Likud ministers and MKs praising Kedoshim in speeches during a gathering in his sukkah for the Sukkot festival.
Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan could be heard recounting how Kedoshim “treats everybody he knows humanely.”
“Just as you show kindness to us, I’m sure you will… for everyone,” said Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman.
Levin also spoke, calling for people to help get Kedoshim elected.
“This man works for everybody, does so much, we have to pay him back and pay him back well on the day of the election for Herzliya city council,” Levin said.
“I’m not here today to talk about anything except our effort to ensure that Rafi will lead the largest faction after the elections,” he said.
שרים בליכוד תומכים בפומבי בעבריין רפי קדושים לראשות העיר הרצליה. יריב פישר, המתמודד נגד קדושים בבחירות, ל-#ספי_ויניר: "אני חבר מועצה כבר 20 שנה, אני יודע מה הוא עושה – זאת לא פעילות נקייה. כל מי שנמצא בהרצליה יודע מה הפעילות, ואני ברדיו אז אני נזהר בלשוני"@sefiova @yanircozin pic.twitter.com/N1igHtI1K2
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) October 3, 2023
Speaking to Channel 13, Kedoshim denied he had any close connections with Levin and said the justice minister only came to support him because he was growing the power of Likud in Herzliya.
However, he conceded that much of the reason for the support from top Likud officials came from the fact that he has in recent years signed up some 2,000 supporters as new members of the party.
“The moment you have behind you the power of the people, this power is expressed in many ways, including that people sign up to Likud,” Kedoshim said.
“They want the support, they want someone strong in Likud. At the end of the day, if I get an answer from one MK or another when we ask them for assistance, and he helps us, then of course we will help him, by getting him elected,” he said.
Kedoshim said he had not yet realized his full power and hoped to soon have as many as 4,000 supporters register as party members.
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. His most recent jail term was some 20 years ago.
In his interview with Channel 13, Kedoshim downplayed his criminal past, saying that two of the instances in which he was jailed were for unpaid fines because he had no money.
He conceded that he had been convicted of kidnapping and extortion, but noted he had only been sentenced to serve one year in prison, calling the investigation a “bluff.”
“I was an aggressive young man… I have paid my debts to society,” he said, claiming the family is no longer involved in crime.
Speaking Wednesday in an interview with Radio 103FM, Kedoshim said his past was an example of why he should be elected.
“When I decided 20 years ago that I no longer deserved this life, I went to [then-Herzliya mayor] Yael German and asked for rehabilitation help. Instead of helping, I saw a system that fights you and does not want to rehabilitate you,” he said.
“When I see today’s youth, there is no one to really rehabilitate them. I am here for them. The municipality has all the tools to help. Most of the people who turn to crime are those that the system does not really help.”
In recent months, Kedoshim has repeatedly seen top Likud members turn out to support him.
Last month, many attended the opening of his campaign event, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Culture Minister Miki Zohar, Energy Minister Israel Katz, Distel-Atbaryan and a range of other Likud MKs and figures.
In March, he hosted a Purim gathering attended by a number of Likud ministers, including Levin, which raised eyebrows at the time.
Likud officials supporting Kedoshim say he has changed his ways and deserves an opportunity.
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. He was sentenced to two years in prison under a plea deal.