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Netanyahu’s Likud eyeing political union with Kahlon’s Kulanu party: reports

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017.
Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be considering a merger with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s more centrist party in an effort to broaden his appeal ahead of the April 9 elections, Kan public broadcaster reported on Wednesday.

Kulanu founded in 2014 and translates as “All of Us” is a centrist party that much like Likud upholds a hawkish approach to security issues but, a more egalitarian view on socio-economic issues such as tackling the cost of living and reducing the inequality gap.

According to the reports, over the past week Netanyahu’s adviser’s have contacted Kahlon and to urge him to enter a political union with Likud. The offer allegedly includes a promise that Kahlon will be reappointed to his position as finance minister and that several spots will be reserved for Kulanu members on the Likud list.

A separate article published in Maariv on Wednesday appeared to challenge Kan’s reports and claimed that a number of Likud members were in fact vocally opposed to the merger plan. Reportedly, activists were concerned that this would compromise the position of certain Likud MK’s and push them down the party list.

A member of the Likud Central Committee, Eli Nagar, has issued an urgent appeal against the party’s apparent preparations ahead of a fusion with Kulanu.

Kulanu has rejected the both reports, calling the Maariv piece “false and absurd report designed to help some candidates in the Likud primaries.”

“Kahlon was established as an alternative to Likud, which lost its way on social issues,” the party said in a statement. “Kulanu will run separately, will increase its power and will continue to win for the benefit of all the citizens of Israel.”

According to the latest polls released last night by Hadashot TV and Kan, Netanyahu’s Likud party still remains the frontrunner in the upcoming elections awarding him somewhere between 28 - 31 seats. A poll published last week by Walla! News found that Kahlon’s party would fall from 10 to 6 seats.

Netanyahu faces at least three criminal probes in which police have recommended his indictment for bribery and corruption, leaving the final decision on whether or not he will be indicted up to the attorney general.

If Netanyahu is indicted, he is not required to step down -- only if he is convicted with all appeals exhausted. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, can ask the prime minister to step down before that process is complete, but if it does not, he can remain in office throughout.

Kahlon, has repeatedly opposed Netanyahu’s tenability as prime minister, if he faces indictment charges.

Earlier this week, Kulanu fired MK Yoav Gallant from his position as Housing and Construction Minister ahead of rumors circulating that he was intending to run in the Likud primaries. Meanwhile, Kulanu lawmakers Rachel Azaria and Michael Oren both said this week that they will not seek a second Knesset term with the party.

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