Likud heavyweights make it personal in coronavirus clash

Finance Minster Israel Katz and coalition chair Miki Zohar, both of Netanyahu's party, trade insults at Knesset Finance Committee meeting on pandemic compensation after Zohar calls for higher recompense for businesses

Moran Azualy, Nina Fox|
Senior Likud lawmakers traded verbal blows Monday at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting to discuss compensation for businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with Finance Minister Israel Katz accusing coalition chair Miki Zohar of acting on his personal interests and Zohar calling for Katz' ouster.
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  • The confrontation began when Zohar demanded the committee increase the maximum compensation permitted for businesses, prompting Katz to accuse the coalition chair of acting in the interests of family members.
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    חצי חצי ישראל כץ מיקי זוהר ועדת הכספים עימות
    חצי חצי ישראל כץ מיקי זוהר ועדת הכספים עימות
    Finance Minister Israel Katz and coalition chair Miki Zohar spar at a Finance Committee meeting
    (Photo: Adina Wellman)
    "This is your personal position, as opposed to the prime minister's position on the matter, given that you have a cousin with an events hall," Katz said.
    "One of the people in the industry told me this. This is your motive, your cousin with a hall."
    Zohar vehemently rejected Katz's claims, accusing the finance minister of arrogance.
    "I ultimately refer to the state of things," Zohar said. "There is no need to stoop as low as the finance minister did. I will rise above myself and ignore the violent and arrogant attitude of the minister."
    Zohar said he was sorry to have "a finance minister in the Likud who is so disconnected from the people."
    He said he had had high hopes for Katz's tenure as finance minister, which had not been met, and suggested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "should consider carefully the continuation of Israel Katz's tenure as finance minister."
    Katz then called for Zohar leave the room, prompting the coalition chair to threaten to "talk about the business dealings of Katz's wife."
    The prime minister summoned the two to his office following the spat and the committee continued its deliberations soon after.
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    ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו וחברי הכנסת מיקי זוהר וישראל כץ
    ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו וחברי הכנסת מיקי זוהר וישראל כץ
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Despite the prime minister's intervention, the row between the two continued on Twitter as soon as the committee meeting was over.
    Katz wrote of his confrontation with Zohar: "You chose to interrupt a substantive discussion to further your own personal interests and those of your cousin who owns a wedding hall.
    "This is contrary to the position of the prime minister and the government who wants to pass the law to quickly transfer money to employees, the self-employed and business owners. Unfortunately, the opposition is displaying more responsibility to the public than you, the so-called "coalition chairman."
    He also accused Zohar of trying to further the goals of lobbyists: "First it was for the benefit of insurance agents, and now for the benefit of venue owners," he tweeted.
    Zohar hit back on the social media platform, writing that, Katz "relax and start working for the benefit of the citizens… It is a great pity that he is trying to project onto me his own disconnected behavior instead of fighting solely for the needs of the public. "
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    Likud MK Gila Gamliel
    (Photo: Avi Mualem)
    Likud MK Gila Gamliel, who was present at the committee meeting, placed the blame for the row on Zohar, a staunch Netanyahu ally.
    "All these problems have been happening since Zohar assumed the role of coalition chairman," Gamliel said in a radio interview. "He needs to get himself together - this is not the Likud way."
    Zohar also hit back at Gamliel on Twitter, writing: "It is a great pity that Gila Gamliel combines her primary considerations with substantive debates related to the economic future of the citizens of Israel. "
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