Kahlon negotiating return to Likud fold, would stay on as finance minister

Kahlon, who has previously said Netanyahu could not stay on if indicted in criminal cases, founded Kulanu in 2014; it slumped from 10 seats to 4 in Tuesday’s elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, in Jerusalem, on March 11, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, in Jerusalem, on March 11, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Following a dismal showing in the polls, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is negotiating a return to the Likud party.

The negotiations are at an advanced stage, with Kahlon’s Kulanu party to be united with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Kahlon retaining his position as finance minister, Ynet news reported.

Kahlon is expected to receive an additional cabinet portfolio as part of the agreement, that would see Likud rise to 39 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. This would be the largest number of seats for Likud since the 1988 elections, when it won 40.

It is estimated that details of the merger will be closed by the beginning of next week and Kahlon will take part in a toast to the new arrangement on Tuesday, Hebrew news outlets reported.

If so, the move could boost Netanyahu’s battle against corruption allegations. Kahlon had said until recently that he would not support the prime minister remaining in office if he is charged in the three corruption cases over which he is facing indictment pending a hearing. Political analysts said Thursday that Netanyahu would be unlikely to approve a merger with Kahlon if the finance minister was still standing by that position.

Head of the Kulanu party Moshe Kahlon speaks to party supporters as the results in the Israeli general elections, are announced, at the party headquarters, on April 9, 2019. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

On the eve of the elections, former minister Gideon Sa’ar had called on Kahlon to join the party. Kahlon refused the call, despite opinion polls predicting a drop in Kulanu’s popularity.

Kulanu suffered badly in the voting, dropping from 10 seats in 2015 to only four.

“This wedding is inevitable,” a senior political source told Ynet.

In 2012, Kahlon resigned from Likud and said that he was taking a break from political life. Two years later, he announced the establishment of Kulanu.

One of Kahlon’s best known achievements was forging the 2012 framework to deregulate the cellular telephone market in Israel while he was communications minister, a move that drastically reduced the price of mobile telephones services in Israel.

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