Popular Welfare Minister Israel's November Surprise?
Welfare Minister Moshe Cachlon (Likud) may run for Knesset at the helm of an independent party, according to reports in the press. Cachlon, who is probably Likud's most popular minister, recently announced he would be taking a break from politics. It is believed that he has had a falling out with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who does not want to give him the post of Finance Minister.
Some pundits speculate that Cachlon is motivated by vengeance and wants to damage Netanyahu politically. Others say he is simply engaged in a show of strength and would return to Likud if he is offered the position he desires. In any case, he may wind up being Israel's November surprise, in elections scheduled for January 22.
According to Voice of Israel public radio, there is "growing conviction in the political establishment" that Cachlon intends to announce the formation of a new party by Friday.
Cachlon has sponsored a poll which predicts that a party headed by him would receive 20 Knesset seats, versus 32 for Likud / Yisrael Beytenu. The poll was carried out by the Smith Institute. In such a scenario, Labor would be badly hit and drop to just 15 seats.
The poll also found that if former Kadima chair Tzipi Livni joins Cachlon and runs as his number two, the party would receive 27 seats, while Likud Beytenu would receive only 30 seats.
Likud has dismissed the poll as "a media bubble".
Cachlon has met Livni and former Kadima head Ehud Olmert in recent days.
A poll carried out for Labor by Mina Tzemach tested a situation in which Cachlon runs in the number two spot in Labor, with current Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich at the helm. The survey found that the party would receive 32 seats – and so would Likud. Without Cachlon, Labor would have 23 seats versus 37 for the united Likud / Yisrael Beytenu list.
Kadima would be wiped off the map if Cachlon runs in Labor, and receive only two seats if he does not, according to the poll.
While considered a "social" candidate with empathy toward the lower earning classes, Cachlon is hawk in diplomacy and security. This makes a union with the dovish Yechimovich less likely. Cachlon is a Sephardic Jew with humble beginnings in a working class neighborhood near Hadera.