Did the prime minister decide not to provide a written pledge to the US during his Washington visit based on political and coalitional considerations? Ynet learned Thursday that amid the deepening rift between Jerusalem and Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Foreign Minster Avigdor Leiberman, who advised him not to agree to US demands and urged him to return to Israel for further consultations.
According to US reports, Netanyahu conveyed a sense of "panic" during the trip.
"Apparently Bibi is very nervous, frantically calling his ‘seven (top ministers),’ trying to figure out what to do,” one Washington Middle East hand said Wednesday according to the Politico website. “The word I heard most today was ‘panic.’"
Netanyahu's visit to Washington was held against the backdrop of a serious diplomatic row between Israel and the United State, including the latest incident involving building permits in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
After receiving a cool reception in the White House, Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama and the two engaged in intense deliberations in an effort to reach mutual understandings before the Israeli PM left Washington. During the discussions, Netanyahu made some time for a conversation with his senior coalition partner Avigdor Leiberman.
According to information received by Ynet, the foreign minister advised the prime minister not to sign any document of understandings with the Americans, urging Netanyahu not to act under pressure, but rather ,to return to Israel and draft such a document along with his senior cabinet members.
Thursday night, several hours after returning from the United States, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will convene with the seven senior ministers' forum.
The prime minister seemed to have taken Lieberman's advice and left Washington without consenting to the US Administration's demands, saying he must first consult with his senior ministers. However, Netanyahu did not speak with Shas Chairman Eli Yishai – another senior coalition partner.
Much speculation regarding the stability of the current coalition with its existing make-up had been circulating within Israel's political establishment. Despite the growing speculation, Lieberman did not express any concerns over the future of the coalition, saying in closed-door talks that he does not foresee any changes in its composition.
Unlike the foreign minister, a Labor party minister noted that "the government with its current composition is in danger. The question is not who will leave, but who will join."
Another senior Likud minister said that "the picture is still not clear enough, and it is too early to engage in any speculations."