Kahlon says his party will back PM to form next government

Kulanu chair says that in scenario where his party is the deciding factor over whether Netanyahu will head coalition, ‘we will give [the premier] a majority’

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks at the 16th annual Jerusalem Conference of the Besheva group, on February 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks at the 16th annual Jerusalem Conference of the Besheva group, on February 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Kulanu party chairman Moshe Kahlon said Tuesday that he would support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to form a new government after elections, asserting that the premier and his only apparently viable competitor, Israel Resilience party chairman Benny Gantz, are “not in the same league.”

Asked if he would recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Gantz be tasked with putting together the next government after elections, the finance minister said he did not believe the former IDF chief would receive enough votes to even be considered for the role.

He made the comment at a Jerusalem conference organized by the right-wing Besheva newspaper.

When asked whether he would recommend to Rivlin that Netanyahu form the next government, Kahlon said that he would back the Likud leader “if he has a majority,” meaning a bloc of parties with over 60 seats.

“And if he doesn’t have a majority, we’ll give him a majority,” he added, suggesting that Kulanu would be a natural coalition partner for Likud.

“We worked well together, I don’t see why we shouldn’t continue working together,” he said. “Our bloc is very strong.”

poll published late Saturday showed Netanyahu remaining best placed to form a government even if his chief rivals join forces ahead of April’s elections.

The poll, published by Channel 12 news, is the latest to show the center and left failing to overtake a right-wing government even if they should overcome their differences and unite, with intensive talks taking place between various parties ahead of this month’s deadline to finalize party tickets

A party led by Gantz, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and fellow former IDF chiefs Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi would lead the voting with 36 seats were elections held now, according to the survey.

Although Kahlon appeared unwavering in his support for Netanyahu, he was not asked whether he would back the premier if indicted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Kahlon has said publicly on a number of occasions that Netanyahu cannot continue to lead the country if he is charged in a series of corruption probes.

The finance minister said in March he expected Netanyahu would step down if indicted, or that he would be forced out by other members of the coalition.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is currently reviewing the cases and is expected to announce whether he plans on indicting Netanyahu later this month. He cannot file charges against the prime minister until after a hearing, which would have to take place after elections.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing, and has claimed the investigations are part of a media, police and left-wing witch hunt aimed at ousting him.

Police have recommended Netanyahu be indicted for bribery in the three separate cases, including one that involves accusations he gave out regulatory favors in exchange for positive media coverage.

Netanyahu has vowed not to step down if Mandelblit announces that he intends to indict him, pending a hearing, in any of the cases against him, asserting that the law does not require him to do so. Mandelblit has confirmed that this is the case.

However, leaders of other parties may balk at agreeing to form a coalition with him if an indictment is hanging over his head.

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