Skip To Content
Breaking News

Netanyahu Offers Finance Ministry to Rival Days Before Election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, trailing in opinion polls two days before a parliamentary election, publicly offered on Sunday the Finance Ministry portfolio to a potentially king-making rival.

Facing possible upset defeat in the March 17 vote, Netanyahu has launched a media blitz to counter what appears to be a rising tide of support for his main opponent, the center-left Zionist Union.

Moshe Kahlon, a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud party whose newly formed centrist party could be a deciding factor in who becomes prime minister, dismissed the offer as pre-election spin.

No party has ever won a majority in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset, and the party leader with the best chance of forming a majority coalition is tasked with leading the new government.

The latest opinion polls predict the Zionist Union taking between 24 and 26 seats in the election, compared with 20-22 seats for Likud.

But even if Likud is outnumbered, Netanyahu is counting on a larger right-wing block to support his bid for another term, and Kahlon, with around 10 seats in the polls, could tilt things in his favor.

“If I am the one to put together the government, he (Kahlon) will be part of the coalition. Without regard of the number of seats (he wins), he will get the finance portfolio,” Netanyahu said on Israel Radio.

A former communications minister, Kahlon delighted Israelis by promoting competition in the cellular market, a move that slashed the prices of mobile telephone services.

He broke ranks with Likud after social protests in 2011 and opted to sit out the 2013 election, later forming the Kulanu party and now making a run for the Finance Ministry.

Though a natural partner for Netanyahu, he is being wooed by both sides and has not ruled out joining a coalition led by Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union.

“We’re 48 hours before the election, there was no doubt such spin would come,” Kahlon told Israel Radio regarding Netanyahu’s offer. “I didn’t ask for the finance portfolio from Herzog or from Netanyahu. I asked for the finance portfolio only from the public.”

Beyond promising to speed up economic reforms that will lower living costs, Netanyahu has kept the focus for the most part on security issues.

Over social media and broadcast interviews, the three-term leader has accused unspecified foreign governments and tycoons of funneling tens of millions of dollars to opposition activists working to undermine him and boost the Zionist Union joint list, led by Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

They, in turn, have dismissed this as a bid by Netanyahu to shift voters’ attention from socio-economic problems to security challenges such as the Palestinian statehood drive and Iran’s nuclear diplomacy, on which the prime minister argues that he alone can resist pressure from abroad.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.