Australian billionaire and Chabad Rabbi Joseph Gutnick will support Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he steps down, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.
Gutnick told the Post‘s Gil Hoffman in an exclusive interview that he has built a relationship with Shaked in recent years and has pledged his resources to her success.
Gutnick said that he chose Shaked because of her right-wing views, her leadership skills and her ability as a secular Jew who respects religion to unite Israelis. He also believes the time has come for Israel to have its second female prime minister after Golda Meir.
Gutnick has secretly been advising Shaked to leave Jewish Home and join Likud. He said that Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett should stand aside and not “be selfish.”
“He should encourage Shaked for the sake of maintaining all of the Land of Israel and the Jewish world, because he has no chance to be prime minister, and he can be foreign minister,” Gutnick said.
Asked Monday on Army Radio about the possibility that Shaked would leave Jewish Home for Likud, Bennett said that she is not the type who would back-stab and be disloyal to her party. He said that he and Shaked should focus on making Jewish Home stronger.
Gutnick said that Shaked should become prime minister only after Netanyahu resigns.
“I am very happy to endorse her to be Bibi’s heir,” Gutnick said. “Only when Bibi leaves should she then lead the Likud. I fully endorse her as the next prime minister only after Bibi leaves.”
Gutnick made a fortune after taking the advice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to mine diamonds in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Gutnick is a strong supporter of Netanyahu. A poll published in Friday’s Ma’ariv found that if elections were held now and Shaked headed Likud, she would win 33 seats, the same as Netanyahu, and would expand the Right bloc to 73 seats from its current 66.