This is one of those political scoops that would make anyone on the right within Likud-Beiteinu cringe, grimace, sigh—even a few molars would probably be gnashed. Which is why a senior Likud minister (they never just come out and identify themselves) told reporter Zeev Kam of Maariv that Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheming to keep Defense Minister Ehud Barak in his post, despite the fact that Barak has already announced his resignation from political life (leaving his sliver-party’s couple of MKs hanging in the wind).
“Have you noticed how Barak has gone underground recently, to convey to Likud voters that he is out of the game?” the senior Likudnik told Maariv. Well, Barak’s “going underground” has been accompanied by several uncharacteristic moves on the part of the outgoing Defense Minister.
There were the announcements of construction approvals in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, which Barak did not object to publicly and in some of the cases actually gave his own approval to continued construction.
“All of a sudden, after so many years of resistance, he (Barak) also gives an order to upgrade Ariel College to a university,” the anonymous cabinet minister added. “These things are never a coincidence. It’s a systematic ploy to prepare the Likud supporters for the possibility of getting Barak for a second term.”
Other Likud sources have also estimated on Sunday that the chances have increased that after the elections Netanyahu will turn to Barak and ask him to stay in Defense – a move that could shake up the entire party.
Barak is one of the least popular figures among Likud’s Knesset list and its government ministers. He is loathed not by the pro-settler MKs but also by senior ministers such as former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, who has been eyeing Defense for some time now.
Another senior source inside Likud told Maariv: “We are on a downslide in the polls, losing out to HaBayit HaYehudi, and the talk in recent days inside the party that Barak will be defense minister in the next government, too, could bring us down another notch.”
The same source added that “should Likud voters learn that Barak is the next defense minister, and the chances for that have increased recently, our situation will be very bad. We’ll be ushering in Naftali Bennett with 20 seats.”
On the other hand, other Likud sources have pointed out that at least the political process of appointing Barak would be difficult and complicated. “The number of seats won by Likud-Beiteinu is expected to be smaller, compared to the previous election, but the number of MKs who see themselves as candidates to serve as ministers is actually larger,” those other sources told Maariv. “Which means it would be next to impossible politically to launch such a move and get it passed through the party apparatus.”
The Likud-Beiteinu campaign spokesperson’s office, as well as Minister Moshe Yaalon’s office have denied the rumors, and stated that they did not engage in speculations. Barak’s office said they had no comment.