Photo: Gil Yohanan
Livni: We cannot go on like this
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Netanyahu: I will go to the polls if I have to

Justice Minister says coalition had to either 'stop the violence, racism, incitement or go to electorate and let it decide'; Herzog also calls on PM to let the people choose.

In a combative speech Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared himself to be unafraid of his ministers' threats and calls for elections, saying he is willing to hold a national ballot if necessary.



"I believe a government must work in harmony. In an effort to achieve that harmony I supported things I was not completely happy with, such as the 0% VAT bill," Netanyahu said, referring to Yair Lapid's flagship legislation to make it easier for some first-time buyers to purchase a home. "Unfortunately, I did not get the support nor did I even receive the most basic commitment – the loyalty and responsibility of ministers sitting in the government."


Netanyahu cited dissent from within his cabinet, which is comprised of a range of ministers from a broad swath of the political spectrum.


"In the diplomatic arena, for example, certain ministers regularly attack the policy I have directed and for which I was elected. They have made a controversial issue even out of construction in Jerusalem, thereby strengthening the international criticism of Israel.


"Those ministers who attack the government and its leader are trying to replace the makeup and prime minister of the government in which they sit, they violate explicit agreements reached, such as a real increase to the defense budget and the transfer of IDF bases to the south."


"I demand that these ministers stop the subversion and the attacks," Netanyahu said. "If they agree, we can continue; if they refuse, we will come to our own conclusions and go to the electorate. A government cannot function when its ministers constantly work against its policies and attack the government of which they are a part from almost every direction and on every issue. "


Livni lashes out

Earlier Monday, as political tensions reached a new peak ahead of a round of meetings between Netanyahu and the heads of the coalition parties, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the Hatnua chairwoman, urged the prime minister to rein in the far-right elements in the government, whom she branded as racists.  


"We have to stop the extremists in the Knesset and in the government," Livni said at the opening of a meeting of her party's Knesset faction. "The Israeli government has reached a crossroads, and the prime minister yesterday said enough is enough, and rightly so."


Livni said that there was a need "to either stop the violence, racism, incitement and fighting for harsh bills, or go to the electorate and let it decide between two paths, between the two worldviews. Our path in Hatnua is clear – responsible security and diplomatic decisions and of course safeguarding a Jewish and democratic Israel state, as already laid out in the Declaration of Independence. This was our path, it will remain our path, and if necessary we take it to the electorate."


Livni criticized the legislation that has been proposed by right-wing members of the government, which includes the bill to define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.


"What is not worthy from our perspective is on one hand to decide against elections and on the other think that you can continue with these extreme bills, riding this wave of racism," she said.


"You cannot go on like this - it is fundamentally against our worldview. In light of the violence and extremism and burning of books in schools and synagogues, the government has to be a responsible government – Zionist, not radical."


Finance Minister Yair Lapid was being particularly conciliatory in his remarks at the Yesh Atid faction meeting. "We can still fix things and work together for the public, which expects us to act responsibly. We weren't elected to serve pressure groups and political interests, we don't have activists who could pressure us. All we want is to work with the entire government for the benefit of the citizens of Israel," he said Monday afternoon.


Despite his more combatant tone on Sunday and over the weekend, Lapid stressed he wasn't interested in going to elections. "Elections will paralyze the market, force heavy costs on the economy, delay processes we started for the benefit of the public and freeze all of the ongoing plans," he said.


The finance minister was also confident both his 2015 state budget and 0% VAT legislation will pass. "The prime minister sat next to me, voted for both of these and committed to me to help pass both. I can't imagine political considerations will change his mind." 


Meanwhile, Knesset members from the National Union party held an emergency meeting on the issue of its joint run with the new National Religious Party, in light of the latter's refusal to discuss a platform of values common to both parties. Earlier, the Labor and Meretz parties presented a bill to dissolve the Knesset plenum, which is set go to a vote next Wednesday. Shas and United Torah Judaism also presented separate bills to dissolve the Knesset.


"Netanyahu's government is stuck and it is not functioning," said Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog on Monday. "Every day it takes Israel a few steps backwards."


He called on Netanyahu to make good on his veiled threats to hold general elections.



"Israel is stuck with Bibi (Netanyahu) and I am happy that the finance minister understands that - it is a shame that it is two years' late. The time has come for a change of government and that will be done through elections. I say to Bibi: Just once, do it, don't just threaten to."  


פרסום ראשון: 12.01.14, 15:34
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