Netanyahu was reportedly furious with Barak for acting behind his back by holding a secret meeting with Obama's close acquaintance Emanuel, which has brought the tension between the PM and the defense minister to new heights.
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Two weeks ago, during an official visit to the US, Barak held a secret meeting with the former White house chief of staff. Barak flew to Chicago especially for the meeting, and the two discussed the recently faltering ties between Israel and the United States.
Emanuel later addressed the meeting and rejected speculations saying he was asked to serve as a diplomatic conduit, in light of growing tension between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu. "If the government of Israel has something to say, they know how to reach the White House and they know how to reach officials there," said Emanuel to the "Chicago Sun Times."
Emanuel and Obama, in close ties (Archive photo: AFP)
On Tuesday, Israeli media outlets said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz warned Netanyahu about Barak, saying "he might trick us with budget issues." Netanyahu's reply, according to the reports, was: "It's not only about budget issues. Have you heard what he did in the political arena? 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."
While tensions between the prime minister and the minister of defense are mounting, the Israeli political arena is moving towards early elections. Netanyahu said he will reach a final decision on the matter in about two weeks, but officials in the Finance Ministry have no doubt that the elections will be moved up. "We are preparing for elections. Shas will never back down on children's stipends," one of them said.
Netanyahu and Barak. Growing rift? (Photo: Defense Ministry)
On Thursday Netanyahu is due to discuss budget issues with Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. A source in Lieberman's party 'Yisrael Beiteinu' said "We believe elections should take place at their original time, but we are willing to see what Netanyahu has to offer."
Officials in the Finance Ministry believe the upcoming discussions will not lead to any breakthrough: "It's hard to imagine any way Netanyahu can escape the political imbroglio surrounding the latest economic decrees. It seems like a dead-end," one source said.
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