Dear Moshe Kahlon, It’s Time to Take a Stand

Dear Moshe, I spent two campaigns volunteering for Kulanu and I was at nearly every one of the biannual Kulanu Party gatherings. When you merged with the Likud some of your most influential supporters were disheartened but I wrote a column supporting the decision. When The Jerusalem Post published an article in mid-October attacking your record, I wrote a rebuttal. 

I am still a dedicated supporter but we need to talk. Prospects for the formation of a governing coalition look bleak. Either there is going to be a third election or something has to give.

It is not just Gantz, Nitzan Horowitz and Ofer Cassif who want the Netanyahu era to end. Likudniks like Benny Begin, Limor Livnat and Dan Meridor, members of the “new Likud” and others openly express reservation with the state of the party. After near extinction, Yisrael Beitenu won eight seats on the slogan “secular right.”

Even without speaking openly, do you think Israel’s homosexual Justice Minister really believes that advocates of gay conversion therapy and halachic governance belong in charge of ministries? Do Yifat Shasha-Biton and Gila Gamliel really want to depend on parties that exclude female candidates? The hypocrisy in such partnerships is clear.

The country wants a coalition with Likud and Blue and White that excludes haredim and Netanyahu. You could remain Finance Minister in that coalition.

Netanyahu and his alliance with religious parties cost the Likud Knesset seats and have become a liability but Netanyahu has not faced a primary since before the Noni Mozes recordings became public. 

The need for change was demonstrated by Netanyahu’s cop-out in October when he called off a Likud primary after realizing that his prospects were not as clear as he had thought and when the Likud Central Committee meeting convened to reaffirm his chairmanship in lieu of a primary turned out less than a tenth of the committee members. When Bibi is afraid to go to a vote it raises questions about his legitimacy.

For years I listened to Kulanu officials say that the judiciary is not our enemy and that a Prime Minister should not serve while under indictment. In December 2017 I attended an anti-corruption rally alongside three Kulanu MKs. 

In the spring Kulanu MKs started saying that it could be possible to sit with a Prime Minister under indictment. The line on the judiciary also changed but I understand why. 

In April Kulanu lost its kingmaker status. Failure to fall in line with Bibi could have left the party relegated to the opposition had a coalition with Yisrael Beitenu been formed, while legislation that Kulanu opposed would have passed anyway. What is the point in rendering yourself another functionally impotent opposition party over legislation that would pass anyway?

Your raison d’etre is to help the poor and everything else is background noise to you. I respect that, that is why I have been so supportive of you. You cannot be in politics and ignore politics forever though. At some point politics confronts you. It happened with things like the Judicial Override Bill and the Police Recommendations Bill. It is happening again.

By the time of a third election the indictment against Bibi will be official. A court date will be on the horizon. Is there a way for that to be good for the Likud? Do you, Moshe, really want to be the sort of politician behind a party chairman who was recorded negotiating with media executives? Do you want to be on the list of a party whose chairman is under indictment? Do you want to be another one of the stooges who spinelessly fall in behind a bully?

Was protecting the rule of law and opposition to having a Prime Minister under indictment things you ever believed in or just things Kulanu said to pick up moderate votes? The answer did not matter before. Machir L’Mishtaken was more important than questions about a theoretical future. 

It is starting to matter and you cannot hide from it much longer. What happens in the aftermath of Bibi’s indictment will be recorded in history books. The statements you make and the positions you advocate in the coming weeks are going to mark your legacy forever. 

In the Netanyahu-Mozes recordings leaked on October 26th they are heard referring to you as one of the people they wanted to bring down. Bibi deserves a push back. It is time to take a stand. It is time to publicly tell Bibi to go home.

Baruch Stein is a writer living in Jerusalem. He has never been employed by Kulanu or any other Israeli political party or any sort of advocacy organization, political or otherwise. He has not been paid to write this post. Previous posts have appeared in media outlets in both the US and Israel.

About the Author
Baruch Stein holds a BA in Political Science from Penn State University, with minors in Middle Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies. He has experience volunteering for political campaigns, and political advocacy organizations in both Israel and the United States. Born and raised in Pennsylvania he has now been living in Jerusalem for more than eleven years.
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