|Kulanu leader - Moshe Kahlon|
I wrote about Israeli election results and the "Haredi Coalition" that was formed on May 6, 2015. As you might recall, I was particularly disappointed with Moshe Kahlon. Before the election, Kahlon had formed a new party - "Kulanu" ("all of us"), which was dedicated, primarily, to economic issues in Israel. Its mandate was to lower the cost of living for Israels, break up monopolies and find ways to make Israel more livable. Kahlon had taken credit for lowering cell phone prices in Israel and was promising to do the same for housing. Sounds great so far.
But with all of these great ideas, Kahlon's first act was to sign on to a government that was promising to waste billions of shekels - adding cabinet ministers, providing huge payouts to the UTJ and other ultra-religious parties - and pledging funds to a wide range of other expensive programs demanded by the new coalition partners. The stench was significant. One was left wondering whether Kahlon was incompetent (i.e. a poor negotiator), stupid or corrupt. I suggested that just the act alone of joining a government that was prepared to make so many monetary concessions to the ultra-religious would strip Kahlon of the credibility that he had built up.
Now some really interesting news emerged about Kahlon yesterday. Prior to the Israeli elections, Kahlon had promised to break up the monopoly in Israel over the Tamar gas field, 30% of which is owned by Isramco. Kahlon is good friends with Kobi Maimon, one of the major shareholders in Isramco. When asked about this exact issue before the election, Kahlon said that his personal relationship with Maimon was irrelevant and that breaking up the monopoly was in Israel's best interest and that he would do it, irrespective of any friendships he had.
Yesterday, Kahlon stated that he would not be involved in any way in breaking up the gas monopoly in Israel, even though, as Minister of Finance, this would be within his bailiwick. Instead, he indicated that he was punting the issue over to Prime Minister Netanyahu. But, in explaining his decision, he noted that he was putting the issue on the back burner specifically because of his friendship with Maimon. News agencies across Israel were juxtaposing Kahlon's pre-election statements with his diametrically opposite pronouncements made yesterday. Not surprisingly, many colourful adjectives are being thrown around...
Some of Kahlon's supporters are arguing that it is still way to early to judge his performance and that he is a seasoned politician who knows how to get things done. They argue that he will fulfill several of his pre-election promises and that over time, these preliminary issues will look very minor. Perhaps that is true. I suppose we will have to wait and see.
But I am inclined to be concerned about a pattern that seems far more unsavoury. Between Kahlon's agreement to dole out billions of shekels to the ultra-religious - and now his reversal on the issue of breaking up the gas monopoly, I would suggest that Kahlon's support across Israeli public opinion is likely to plummet very quickly, which will be good news for Israel's centrists in the next election (which I still believe will be sooner rather than later).