Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) said on Tuesday that he does not foresee new Knesset elections in the near future, though he also acknowledged that his relations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have not returned to the state they were at before the crisis over the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation.

Speaking at the opening session of the 17th Herzliya Conference, Kahlon said, “The crisis of the broadcasting corporation was a watershed moment: At the height of action and advancing the issues, and when I innocently believed that we are pushing forward the country and beginning to see the results bear fruit, I found myself almost heading to elections on the question of who will preside over the cooking show on Channel 1. Is this the standard for bringing Israel to elections? Since then relations with Netanyahu did not return to their prior state. What I know is that I am not returning to the Likud: I was there, and understand it.”

He continued, “I think that chances of a change in the Government are now very low – this almost happened in the past, but [Zionist Union leader Yitzhak] Herzog proved himself as a person of principles. By the way, I believe that Herzog must enter the coalition, but it will not happen at this stage.”

Kahlon said that “there is no reason that the current Government will not prevail through its allotted time, but I cannot say when the next elections will be, and I know the reason that could cause everything to explode. I want to be the Minister of Finance and fight for the middle class, and I see the political price of what I am doing, but I came here with an agenda and that is what I want to accomplish, otherwise I could have joined any party and received almost any position I wanted. Politics is not a youth group – it’s cold, cruel, cynical, and difficult to bear.”

Minister Kahlon addressed the issue of building approvals for Qalqilya, which has drawn heavy criticism from right-wing coalition members.

“This is what I know – there was a program of ‘carrots and sticks’ – in areas without terror attacks where there was quiet, we gave them carrots; in areas where there was [violence], there were sticks,” said the Finance Minister.

“As part of the ‘carrots’ there was the plan to widen Area C, adjacent to Qalqilya, only in the planning stage. The exact extent would be determined later. There was a vote in the Israeli Cabinet, I don’t know how much I can reveal, but the matter was voted upon. I heard the Prime Minister speak of 6,000 apartments; it is possible that this is it is possible that this is what he intends to approve.”

Asked about a potential political solution with the Palestinian Authority, Minister Kahlon said, “All of us understand that there will be two states, but don’t wish to say this. At the end of process, this is what will happen. I don’t think that the Palestinians are ready, they want to pass these years settling things themselves, addressing their internal opposition and economy. I don’t see them rushing to an agreement, but this is the vision.”

“Now there is American pressure to advance a process: the U.S. and the Trump Administration feel that they can, perhaps on account of good relations and trust, to get involved and pressure Israel to reach a process – I don’t think that Netanyahu is opposed to talks,” he added.

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