JERUSALEM (JTA) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped a popular outgoing government minister to head the Israel Land Administration in what some called an election tactic.
Netanyahu announced the appointment of Moshe Kahlon, who gained popularity as communications minister for cutting the prices on cellular phone services, in a news conference on Jan. 20. Both are members of the Likud Party headed by Netanyahu.
The head of the Central Elections Committee, Elyakim Rubinstein, did not allow the Israeli networks to air the news conference, saying it was considered illegal elections propaganda.
Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the new center-left party Hatnua, said the news conference with Kahlon was "merely an elections ploy designed to halt the Likud’s drop in the polls," Ynet reported.
The most recent poll showed the combined Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list of candidates gaining 32 Knesset seats after earlier polls had seen the slate with as many as 42 seats.
In his new position, Kahlon will oversee an organization that manages more than 90 percent of the country’s land and stands poised to have an effect on housing prices.
Kahlon announced in October that he would take a break from politics and not run in Israel’s elections, which are being held Jan. 22.