Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked
Justice Minister Ayelet ShakedFlash90

A haredi mining and diamond mogul who backed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first election in 1996 says Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) is the ideal candidate to succeed Netanyahu when he decides to retire.

Netanyahu, who turns 69 in October, has hinted that he will run for a fifth term as premier when the current Knesset’s term ends in 2019, then possibly retire from politics. If Netanyahu is reelected in 2019, and serves out an additional four-year term, he will be 74 by the end of his fifth term.

The possibility of Netanyahu retiring in the next few years has led to speculation over who would succeed the man who has led the Likud, the Israeli right – and Israel – for much of the last quarter century.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who announced this March that he will not seek a third term as mayor, has hinted at his own ambitions to lead the Likud following Netanyahu’s retirement.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) too has spoken about his aspirations for the premiership following Netanyahu’s departure from politics.

But Australian Jewish mining mogul Joseph Gutnick, who helped bankroll Netanyahu’s first campaign in 1996 believes Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) is the natural political heir to Netanyahu.

“I would really love to support her as the [political] heir of Netanyahu,” Gutnick told Maariv.

“When Bibi [Netanyahu] retires, she will need to lead the Likud.”

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, Gutnick argued, must step aside and let Shaked run for the premiership.

“He needs to step aside and not be selfish."

Gutnick, a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, explained the reasoning behind his support for Shaked – a secular member of the largely National-Religious Jewish Home party.

“It is for the sake of the integrity of the Land of Israel and the Jewish world,” Gutnick said, explaining that Bennett “has no chance of becoming Prime Minister, though he could become Foreign Minister.”