Former Knesset Speaker and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein did not do well in Tuesday’s Likud primaries: he was booted to the 17th spot, which means he will certainly make it to the Knesset come November, but landing this relatively low slot could mean a demotion when it comes to a ministerial appointment in a Netanyahu government.
The Likud is a democratic party, but its primaries are notoriously handled by vote brokers and they often represent the wishes of the party chairman, opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu. Nir Barkat, Israel Katz, and Yuli Edelstein, who were all considered at one time or another the candidates to fill Benjamin Netanyahu’s shoes, have all been punished on Tuesday for their daring to challenge the boss, some more severely than others. Barkat didn’t make the top five and ended in 8th place. Katz was pushed back to 12th, and Edelstein, as we said, to 17th, which, after Netanyahu announces his own additions to the party list (he is allowed 4), could mean 20th.
On Thursday, Kan 11 News reported that Edelstein was reevaluating his career as a Likudnik, and was heard to say in a private conversation: “If I’m not appointed minister after the elections, I will not continue in Likud for a long time.”
The leak was a shot across the bow, warning Netanyahu that if his future as prime minister has been quashed by Gideon Sa’ar and Ze’ev Elkin, two senior Likud leaders who had enough of being pushed down by the chairman and joined the Lapid-Bennett government as ministers – imagine how much damage one of the most popular Likud politicians could do should he be made unhappy.
Mind you, Edelstein married Irina Nevzlin, the daughter of Russian-Israeli billionaire Leonid Nevzlin. Nevzlin renounced his Russian citizenship in March, so he got to hold on to his estimated $1.3 billion. He’s not Elon Musk rich, but should his son-in-law need help to redirect his political career, he’ll do OK.
Likud MK Miki Zohar, who came in 10th in the primaries, responded to Edelstein’s ultimatum on Friday, telling Reshet Bet radio that “this is not the time to deal with appointments.”
“Harnessing the cart before the horses is not wise,” Zohar continued. “Now we shouldn’t hand out jobs but focus on one important thing – win the election campaign. Whoever thinks we have already won is wrong. And when we return to the leadership of the state, I’m sure everyone will have a spot, everyone will be part of the faction, this is not the time to engage in Jobs,” Zohar reiterated.
While we’re on the subject of Likud politics, the fact that the top 10 winners in Tuesday’s primaries were mostly right-wing hardliners and all the liberals in the party have been pushed down the list, is going to impact the Likud campaign strategy, according to Kan 11 News. The party is expected to conduct its first strategic conference next week, and rumors suggest they will give up on the soft-right vote and work instead to bring in the harder right-wing voters – at the expense of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir.