Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said he would tap Likud MK Nir Barkat as finance minister if he forms a government after the upcoming elections, a feat that has twice eluded the premier over the past year.
“I asked Nir Barkat to be the finance minister of the next Likud government,” Netanyahu said at a Likud campaign event in Or Yehuda.
Barkat, a former Jerusalem mayor and venture capitalist, thanked Netanyahu for making him Likud’s finance minister-designate. He also said Netanyahu had adopted his economic platform.
“We all need to come together for the Likud victory in the elections to form a national government so that we can implement big reforms that will bring continued growth and prosperity to all the State of Israel,” Barkat wrote on Twitter.
Incumbent Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is leaving politics and not running in the upcoming elections, will remain in office until there is a new government.
Netanyahu’s campaign pledge to make Barkat finance minister depends on him being able to put together a government after the March 2 vote. He failed to do so after elections in April and September, and a television poll released Thursday indicated Likud and its right-wing allies will again fall short of a majority.
The prime minister has promised other cabinet appointments over the past year, including vowing to make Moshe Feiglin a minister for pulling his Zehut party from September’s elections.
Netanyahu’s announcement comes after his office denied an unsourced Channel 12 news report that he was considering replacing Kahlon with Barkat in the coming days.
According to the report, appointing Barkat to the post would be an attempt to attract moderate right-wing voters to the party.
The report said internal Likud polling showed Barkat could help pull in voters who are swinging between Likud and its rival, the Blue and White party.
The network said many Likud ministers, including Yariv Levin, Israel Katz and Miri Regev, opposed the swift promotion of a junior MK to such a prominent position.
Barkat was first elected to the Knesset in April of last year, and due to the ongoing political gridlock that has led to a further two elections since then, has yet to do any significant work as a legislator.
In January, Kahlon announced he would not be running as a candidate for the Likud party in the upcoming March election, after a 15-year political career for the socioeconomic-minded, right-wing lawmaker.
Kahlon began his first Knesset stint in 2003 as a lawmaker for Likud, passing popular reforms as communications minister before leaving the party and taking a break from politics in 2013 amid rumors of tensions with Netanyahu.
He founded the Kulanu party in 2015, becoming the most senior partner in the government with 10 seats in the 120-member Knesset. In September, he ran on a joint ticket with Netanyahu’s Likud after his party lost more than half of its support in the April vote, winning just four Knesset seats.