Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak
of "stoking the conflict" between Israel
and the United States, Channel 2 reported Tuesday.
According to the report, Netanyahu criticized Barak during a meeting with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, blasting the defense minister's recent trip to the US.
"He traveled to the US to stoke the conflict between us and the Americans in order to come off as the savior – the moderate party that reconciles between the sides," Netanyahu said, according to a source who was present at the meeting.
Barak's office said in response that "It’s no secret that during private government meetings, and sometimes in public as well, Ehud Barak voices stances that differ from those held by most of his fellow cabinet members, including the prime minister.
"(…) But during his trips to the US, Barak defends the government's positions and makes efforts – often successfully – to alleviate the tension between the governments and to strengthen their security ties."
Rift between Netanyahu, Barak? (Photo: Defense Ministry)
Also on Tuesday, the prime minister announced that he will move up the elections if the Knesset fails to pass a "responsible state budget."
Netanyahu, who spoke during a meeting of coalition factions, said that he will make the decision by the beginning of the Knesset's winter session on October 15.
"For four years we have been managing the economy responsibly," he said. "We have reduced unemployment to one of the lowest rates in the Western world. We maintained high growth and added new jobs. We dealt with the global economic crisis. The security of the citizens of Israel grew despite the regional turmoil. For four years we acted as a responsible government, and we should continue doing so."
Netanyahu is expected to make final efforts to pass the budget, but top officials told Ynet that it currently appears as though the negotiations are over, and now the time has come for the prime minister to decide. They said that the elections are expected to be held in February, although a final date has yet to be discussed.
Top coalition officials went further to suggest that no serious negotiations aimed at passing the budget have been held.
"The talks that were held could not really bring to an agreement over next year's budget cuts," one source said.
A source familiar with the inner workings of the the Prime Minister's Office noted that "when Kadima
quit, it became clear that the elections would be moved up, and everything else is just part of the show. Now Netanyahu is looking into the steps necessary to end this process, disperse the Knesset and hold the elections as soon as possible."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Tuesday told some 3,000 Likud activists who gathered at his sukkah that it is possible "that the elections will be held early next year."
"We will turn to the public and ask for its trust," he said. "We will ask it to empower the Likud and allow it to manage the state under its principles."
Katz at his sukkah (Photo: Roee Idan)
Opposition Leader Shaul Mofaz
hosted activists and Knesset members in his traditional holiday tent as well, in the town of Kokhav Yair. "Kadima is ready for elections at any time," he told his guests. "We need to replace Netanyahu and give the people of Israel hope."
He offered himself and the Kadima Party as the alternative to Netanyahu, asserting that |no one is more experienced or capable.|