Popular ex-Likud minister launches new party

Moshe Kahlon doesn’t name any candidates, but vows his list will comprise hardworking, non-corrupt professionals

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Moshe Kahlon speaking in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
Moshe Kahlon speaking in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Hours after Knesset members voted unanimously in favor of dissolving the current parliament, popular former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon announced Wednesday that he would form a new political party composed of honest, non-corrupt candidates, in order to counter what he called the serving government’s “unclean” politics.

“We need a new political party, because politics [today] are unclean,” Kahlon, who resigned as communications minister in October 2012, three months before the last general election, said during a speech at Haifa University.

“I am returning to politics for our children, to do the things we believe in.”

While Kahlon did not unveil the name of the party or who its members would be, he stressed that his list would include professionals who would address the country’s social issues and work to improve economic prospects for Israel’s citizens.

“The individuals who will form the list [for the party] will not seek power and authority, and will be determined, experienced and not corrupt,” he said.

“Our economy is like a circus, and there is nothing more humane and just than allowing people to live and work with dignity. The exploitation of distressed workers and the social disparities must not continue.”

Kahlon’s official statement on Wednesday came after he held a founding meeting for the party last Thursday. Formerly a high-ranking Likud figure, Kahlon has said in the past that he opposes a Palestinian state and the dismantling of West Bank settlements.

Kahlon, who also served as welfare minister in Netanyahu’s last government, has been credited with introducing more competition to the cellular communications market, bringing about a sharp reduction in the prices of cellular service packages. His new political party is expected to focus on reducing the cost of living in Israel.

The burgeoning cost of living has been a hot topic in Israel for years, culminating in massive protests in 2011 that saw hundreds of thousands camp out in city streets throughout the country, demanding that the government take action to make things such as food and housing more affordable. Many who emigrate from Israel point to the cost of living as a key factor in their decision.

“My friends and I intend to create a new political framework that will truly deal with the issues… which are close to many people,” Kahlon said at a Tel Aviv business conference in October. “It will be, God willing, when there are elections.”

Before the Knesset elections of January 2013, Kahlon announced that he would be taking a break from politics, sparking persistent reports that he was set to start his own party.

A July Knesset Channel poll showed a theoretical Kahlon party garnering six seats if elections were held then, while this week polls have shown him hovering around 10-12 Knesset seats.

Although Kahlon’s candidate list remains unknown, rumors swirling in the Knesset and among political analysts indicate that the ex-minister is gathering a list of accomplished, well-known figures for his new party, among them renowned economist Manuel Trajtenberg, former IDF major-general Yoav Galant, and former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin. Over the past months, Kahlon has also held numerous meetings with Avi Gabbay, a former CEO of Israeli telephone company Bezeq, and with Roni Gamzo, a former director of the Health Ministry.

Lazar Berman and AFP contributed to this report.

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