Livni: Netanyahu taken captive by Shas
Opposition chairwoman accuses prime minister of forcing MKs to vote against state commission of inquiry into Carmel fire disaster. 'His alliance with Eli Yishai prevents a shared burden, encourages racist statements by rabbis and harms the chances for peace,' she tells Ynet
After calling on him to resign following the state comptroller's report on Israel's firefighting services, Livni accused Netanyahu of "forcing Knesset members to vote against an independent commission of inquiry which would examine who is responsible for the failures."
Livni's harsh remarks come a day after the Knesset's State Control Committee failed to come up with a majority in favor of a state commission of inquiry into the failures which led to the Carmel wildfire disaster, and several hours before the Knesset is slated to vote on a bill recognizing conversions performed in the Israel Defense Forces, which Netanyahu avoided voting on during Sunday's cabinet meeting.
According to Livni, Shas' alliance with Netanyahu harms IDF soldiers and the State's values. "The prime minister and the Likud are political hostages and have sold their entire world-view. The prime minister is not voicing an opinion on this matter.
"I hear the news, that the prime minister is serving as a mediator between Shas and (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman. The government should have defended soldiers going through a difficult conversion process. They should have backed the troops.
"Today, the prime minister must face Shas and say, 'No more.' But Netanyahu is too busy trying to reach a compromise between the different segments of his government. He is busy leaving everyone in their slots and himself in the prime minister's slot."
Yishai facing Netanyahu. 'He should stand up and say – no more' (Photo: Mark Israel Salem)
"The conversion issue is national, essential matter of principle," Livni says. "I met young soldiers going through a conversion process, and they feel part of the society. They serve in combat units. A soldier told me, 'I'm in the course, I want to convert, because if – God forbid – something happens to me, I'll be able to be buried next to my friends. And I'll be able to marry after I am discharged.'
"It's unthinkable that these soldiers' ability to feel like they belong will be hurt because of another signature of the rabbinical establishment, because of this insistence."
Shas ministers met with their spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, on Tuesday night and expressed their strong objection to the conversion bill, accusing Lieberman of causing the crisis.
"The conduct we have seen in the past few days over this law represents an unholy alliance between Bibi and (Interior Minister) Eli Yishai which was formed even before the elections," Livni says.
"In every point in our lives it leads the government and Israel to bad places. This is an alliance which will prevent core studies, a shared burden, and allows those racist statements we are starting to hear from rabbis. The prime minister and the Likud have become political hostages. They have sold their entire world-view for a political need, to a party which is doing injustice to Judaism, and most definitely to the shared values."
'I don't trust PM to fix failures'
The political fire has erupted in several places, and apart for the state and religion issue, Livni goes on to attack Netanyahu for the firefighting failures, which were exposed last week in the state comptroller's report.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu is shirking responsibility. He arranged some moments of glory for himself during the fire, but when it's time to look into the fire's failures he forces Knesset members to vote against an independent commission of inquiry which will examine who is responsible for the failure."
The opposition leader criticizes Netanyahu's objection to a state commission of inquiry. "As far as I'm concerned, the prime minister should have initiated the commission of inquiry or at least accepted the public demand for one.
"But I see what's going on in the Knesset and it's very troubling. It's true that the coalition has a majority and there are some Knesset members with certain opinions about commissions of inquiry, but when you see processes in which people support a committee and then change their mind, and you see signed letters even before the discussion, you say to yourself that the whole discussion is theoretical."
'Who will guarantee that this won't happen at a time of war?' (Photo: Matti Elamaliach)
Livni is demanding that those responsible for the firefighting failure resign, rejecting claims that Israel has turned into a country of investigation committees. "First of all, there are countries where failures are followed by people's resignations. Israel has failed to adopt these norms so far.
"Therefore, when leaders fail to take responsibility, an independent body must investigate. The comptroller already probed the firefighting issue before the blaze, but his reports have not been implemented.
"I don't trust the prime minister to fix the failures found in the report. He has been given a long time to make the repairs, since the first report, but has failed to do so. His people received drafts of the report before it was released and chose to ignore it and engage in surveys instead.
"Now we have reached a situation in which many people have paid the heaviest price. So we are not just dealing with the past but also with the future. Who will guarantee that such a fire will not erupt at a time of war, or when we won't be able to receive more planes from neighboring countries?"
Time for elections?
She stresses that she will not settle for a state comptroller investigation into the Carmel fire, as a committee is required to impose personal responsibility. "The claim that everything is okay, that the performance was just fine, as has been voiced by the prime minister, or blaming previous governments – let's let someone look into it.
"What is Mr. Netanyahu afraid of? I call for a state commission of inquiry because we believe in the truth, in an investigation, in responsibility and in its implementation, including in probing the past."
Earlier this week Livni returned from the United States, where she met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among other officials. She is not optimistic in regards to the chances to advance the peace process, pointing another finger at the Netanyahu-Yishai alliance, which she says "will try to prevent an agreement".
"Instead of progressing, instead of going to direct negotiations, they engaged in something which is insignificant on a historical level – will a few more apartments be built or not.
"As a result of the attempt to create a deal and let Shas abstain, we went backwards and lost the world's trust. Now we're going back to indirect talks. This conduct damages Israel's national and security-related interests. When I hear the prime minister say it's in Israel's interest to make peace, I wonder what he has done for it.
"Your choice, Mr. Netanyahu, is between this alliance, this coalition, and its unwillingness to move forward, and the Israeli interest. This coalition goes against the Israeli interest."
Under such conditions, Livni's Kadima faction will not join the government. "The prime minister has chosen political survival, the State is paying a price, and we will have to replace the government. It's time for elections."
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