Netanyahu seeks party leadership confirmation ahead of general election

Netanyahu seeks party leadership confirmation ahead of general election
3 min read
21 October, 2014
Israel's prime minister is reportedly looking to secure Likud leadership in advance of potential budget crisis.
Netanyahu is preparing for elections [AFP]

Binyamin Netanyahu is reportedly seeking a party leadership election to stave off attempts by his Likud rivals to unseat him. The Israeli prime minister wants to lead his party into the next general election, which local media have speculated may be held as early as spring 2015.

Moshe Kahlon, a former minister of communications, announced his intention to return to politics at the head of a new party at the next general election. He said he would have remained in Likud if it had been led by someone other than Binyamin Netanyahu.

Kahlon is popular with voters after ending the monopolies enjoyed by telecommunications companies when he was last in office, resulting in significant price reductions for phone users.

        The Israeli press started hinting there might be a general election in the near future, predicting it might be next spring

Last week, Israeli Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz was the first to call for early primaries to be held for Likud's leadership, sparking a storm within the party. Katz has long been seen as an ally of the prime minister, as opposed to the far-right flank of the party, which includes figures such as former Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon and Chairman of the Government Coalition Yariv Levin.

On Tuesday morning, the Israeli press started hinting there might be a general election in the near future, predicting it might be next spring. The Israeli press suggested Netanyahu was preparing for the next coalition by strengthening his relations with Haredi parties outside of the current government coalition and by improving cooperation with the Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett.

Bolstering support

These political manoeuvres come at a time when Netanyahu has a high approval rating in the country. Polls over the past few months also suggest Israeli right-wing parties could win at least 70 seats in the Knesset, which has led many to speculate that the next government coalition will also be dominated by the right-wing, although led by Netanyahu.

In a radio interview on Tuesday morning, Israeli political commentator Hanan Crystal said that Kahlon's revelation that he would oppose Netanyahu in the general election seemed to suggest he had access to inside information from the Likud party. This could explain why Kahlon so swiftly announced the formation of a new party, able to compete with the Yesh Atid party, led by current Minister of Finance Yair Lapid.

Netanyahu will need all the support he can muster from his political allies, as his weakened coalition returns for a new Knesset session which will see a number of key votes coming up in the next few months - not least of which is the passing of the 2015 budget. If the budget is held up, the next few months may be particularly rocky for Israel's embattled prime minister.


This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.