The Likud is working to convince a number of newly-minted MKs from the Blue and White party to jump ship at the beginning of the 21st Knesset’s term, a new report by Yediot Ahronot claims.
On Wednesday, just a day after the 120 Knesset Members elected last month were sworn in to the Israeli parliament, Yediot Ahronot reported that Natan Eshel, one of the Likud officials leading the party’s coalition negotiations, is actively working to lead several MKs from the rival Blue and White party away from the faction – and into the Likud.
One of Eshel’s top targets is freshman MK Omer Yankelevich, a haredi MK in the Israel Resilience faction of the Blue and White party – and the only female haredi lawmaker in the Knesset.
According to the Yediot report, Eshel has been attempting to use connections in the haredi world to encourage Yankelevich to abandon the Blue and White party in favor of the Likud. Eshel’s efforts have reportedly included investigating which rabbis Yankelevich would be most likely to be influenced by.
Eshel has reportedly offered the first-time MK chairmanship of a Knesset committee.
The Likud is hoping to recruit at least one Blue and White MK, thus enabling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to form a narrow 61-MK coalition without former Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party.
At present, 65 MKs, including Yisrael Beytenu’s five-member delegation, have backed Netanyahu for premier. Without Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu would be unable to form a right-wing – religious coalition. The Blue and White party has ruled out forming a unity government with Netanyahu.
“We don’t have a government without her vote,” Eshel is quoted as telling haredi officials. “If we do get her vote, then Netanyahu will have a government even without Evet [Liberman].”
“We want her to bolt from Blue and White and come over to the Likud. She’ll be given chairmanship of an important committee which handles issues related to the haredi community. She won’t just be another MK without any influence within the Blue and White.”
Eshel has denied the claims, saying “This kind of report is good for me, but we have not asked and are not interested in her or others. We are happy with the 65 [MKs] that we have.”