Tzachi Hanegbi is viewed by most as being among the Likud elite, like Ministers Dan Meridor and Binyamin Begin, for he shares the yichus the ministers enjoy for Hanegbi’s mother Geula Cohen, was a major member in the Lechi underground during the pre-state days. Therefore, like Meridor who left and returned and whose political hashkafa is far from Likud, and Begin who quit and returned, it is not at all surprising that while other Kadima MKs failed to make the move, to shift over to Likud, Likud accepts their prestigious son back from Kadima exile with open arms.
If not for his yichus, Hanegbi, who has been a senior cabinet minister, headed many powerful Knesset committees and always in the inner loop would have long vanished from the right-wing political arena because like the ministers, his views are diluted, a far cry from the Greater Land of Israel roots handed down to him by his mother, who left Likud to move further right to the now extinct Techiya Party. Nevertheless, his opinion is sought after, his views respected, and his presence desired.
Realizing Kadima’s days are most likely numbered, Hanegbi is working his way home to Likud while the option is still available to him. The timing is good as Likud is seeking to buy as many Kadima MKs as possible, aware they too see the party’s impending doom and they prefer to opt out while there is someone to accept them, not to mention the ruling party. From the prime minister’s perspective, he requires additional support for if not, his coalition may not succeed in passing the state budget, not to mention the need to pass a new Tal Law to address the chareidi draft situation.
In 2005, Hanegbi followed Likud defector Ariel Sharon to their new home, Kadima, and he has been there since. Hanegbi, like others in the senior political establishment, was convicted of breaking the law. The Jerusalem District Court found him guilty of tampering with political appointments during his tenure as a cabinet minister. Many are speculating that Hanegbi will walk right into a cabinet post, perhaps Minister of Homefront Affairs now held by Matan Vilnai, with the latter departing to China as the nation’s newest ambassador. Others feel the moral turpitude clause attached to his conviction in the Jerusalem District Court will prevent him from serving in a cabinet post. This is yet to play out but party legal experts explain Likud’s rules and regulations prohibit him from entering as a party member again after being slapped with the guilty conviction and moral turpitude clause.
The state also requires a seven year hiatus between completing one’s prison term following a conviction and one’s return to public service, as was the case with Aryeh Deri. However, the Central Election Committee may rule the moral turpitude clause is not applicable, always providing a backdoor. Another difference between Deri and Hanegbi is the latter was not hit with a prison term, perhaps making him more suitable for leniency.
Some will also argue that Hanegbi is Ashkenazi and part of the good old boys network, so accommodating him is a more likely scenario than in the case of former Shas convicts Deri and Shlomo Benizri, both former Shas cabinet ministers who served jail terms and hit with the moral turpitude clause.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)