Photo: Gil Yohanan
Ministers Lapid and Lieberman
Photo: Gil Yohanan

With coalition crisis at boiling point, Netanyahu meets Lieberman

Government unity continues to fracture as Finance Committee discussion implodes; Netanyahu requests, then cancels, talks with Likud leadership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman discussed on Monday potential solutions for the crisis in the coalition over the state budget. Meanwhile, senior officials in Yesh Atid said that the two parties will soon reach a compromise on a variety of topics and formulate understandings to bridge their disagreements.


As tensions within the fractured government reached new levels throughout the course of the day, party leaders rushed to declare their reluctance to take the country to new elections, cautioning that this was the only alternative to the current coalition.



The head of Yisrael Beiteinu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, warned Monday that should the coalition break apart, Israel would go to elections.


But he also noted that he did not foresee "any dramatic change happening even after the elections. Perhaps the dramatic change would be if the three nationalist parties - Yisrael Beiteinu, Bayit Yehudi and Likud - together get 60 (Knesset) seats."


While this was unlikely, Lieberman said he hoped both the current coalition and Netanyahu "know how to get along and find the necessary compromise or right tones (of discourse)."


Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman: We try not to fight with anyone. (Photo: Gil Yohanan) (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman: We try not to fight with anyone. (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


The foreign minister said the current "escalation of statements was not helping," noting he believed Yisrael Beiteinu was "the only party that did not present ultimatums. We're not threatening and we try not to fight with anyone."


Meanwhile, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the head of Hatnua, on Monday slammed proposed legislation on defining Israel as the Jewish nation-state, which she has delayed, expressing concerns about its anti-democratic nature.


Explaining her decision to postpone the vote on the proposed Basic Law in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, Livni called the bill unnecessary, claiming that Israel's Declaration of Independence "has already determined that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, while all its citizens are equal."


Her primary concern, she said, was that "I object and we will all object to (Israel as) a democratic state that is not Jewish, or a Jewish state that is not democratic."


Livni and her MKs at a faction meeting. (Photo: Gil Yohanan)  (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Livni and her MKs at a faction meeting. (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


The proposed legislation seeks to enshrine in law for the first time since 1948 the status of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Livni on Sunday accepted a request from Yesh Atid's Communications Minister Yaakov Peri to postpone the vote. Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet, had dubbed the bill as "dangerous."


"I love the fact that (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu said he supported equal rights, but the bill proposals from (Likud MK Ze'ev) Elkin and Bayit Yehudi do not include that term, so I postponed the discussion. We're not against the Nationality Law, but are against a law that hurts the Declaration of Independence," Livni told reporters during Hatnua's weekly faction meeting.


Netanyahu on Monday called and then cancelled a meeting of senior Likud leaders to discuss the ongoing coalition crisis. The prime minister was apparently anticipating a surprise maneuver by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, which he wished to discuss with the Likud leadership, but felt compelled to cancel the meeting due to the onslaught of rumors that it had caused. The Likud faction meeting, however, was set to take place as planned on Monday afternoon.


Nonetheless, the prime minister hit back at Livni's comments, doubling down on his determination to ensure that the bill became law, and insisting that there were provisions to guarantee the rights of each Israeli citizen.


"On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to establish a Jewish country in the land of Israel. 'We hereby declare the formation of a Jewish state in the land of Israel' - these words were written in the Declaration of Independence," Netanyahu said. 


"Each citizen in the state of Israel has rights, regardless of religion, race or gender. These rights are enshrined in the law. The issue of a Jewish and democratic state is not enshrined in law. On Sunday, we will put the Nationality Law on the government's table to provide an answer to those doubting this right. We'll insist this bill passes."


Knesset warfare

The political battles have also extended to other legislation, with Yisrael Beiteinu MKs on Monday walking out of a Knesset Finance Committee discussion on Lapid's bill to annul VAT for certain home purchases.


The walkout came after Yisrael Beiteinu MK Alex Miller earlier requested an extension on the committee vote on the bill set for Wednesday, in order to hold consultations within his faction. Miller, who is one of two Yisrael Beiteinu MKs on the committee, said that discussions on the bill could not be completed unless agreement was reached on key issues.     


Lapid also called Monday for an end to the political infighting, saying that the disagreements could be resolved with senisble debate in the relevant committees.


"This is not the time for elections and coalition maneuvering," he said. "I won't form any alternative government. The public expects responsibility from us. The country is being torn apart. There's violent discourse in the Knesset as well. This is not the time for political interests. We can solve everything in two hours of to-the-point discussions."


Lapid, who attended the Finance Committee discussion in order to present the new State Budget, urged committee members to act with the interests of the citizens of Israel in mind.


"Before we dive into the details of the economic plan, I want to ask you the chairman and the other members of the committee one additional thing: Don't lend a hand to any kind of political blackmail. The public expects us to act responsibly," he said.


"The (budget supplement) Economic Arrangements Bill in front of you is one of the leanest and most focused that we have ever seen. All committee members should know – opposition and coalition members alike – that we absolutely won't allow changes in the budget to lead to further cuts in social budgets."


Even so. Yesh Atid faction leader Ofer Shelah struck a less conciliatory note Monday, telling Ynet that his party would not concede on the issues key to its platform.


"We will stick to our principles, and we'll make sure that they cannot be buried. We won't give up and we'll go all the way," Shelah said, adding that he and his colleagues were not afraid of elections.


Throughout the week preceding the decision on the budget, the coalition had railed against the possibility of a failure to pass it, and a subsequent move towards elections.


The clashes between the factions that make up the government included the coordinated move Sunday by Livni and Yesh Atid to halt the discussion on the bill to make Israel the Jewish nation-state – a law that Netanyahu is seeking to promote.


No lifeline

Predictions also surfaced of a possible meeting between Netanyahu and representatives of the haredi parties, to examine the possibility of forming an alternative government.


MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism was quick to explain, however, that he and his colleagues had no intention of acting as the prime minister's lifejacket.



"If we join the government, we'd save Lapid and he'd rise in the polls. Up to now, he's been a total failure," Gafni said.


The haredi parties, usually a fixture in Israeli coalitions, had been left out in the cold by Netanyahu during the formulation of the last government in early 2013.



But in a sight usually reserved for elections, the two main players – Netanyahu and Lapid – were photographed together at the Israeli soccer team's game, which won 3-0 against Bosnia in Haifa on Sunday night.



פרסום ראשון: 11.17.14, 15:40
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