Photos: Gil Yohanan, EPA
Photos: Gil Yohanan, EPA

Netanyahu announces elections after firing key ministers

As talk of elections increase, prime minister decides to fire the finance minister and the justice minister; 'I won't tolerate ministers attacking from within the government the government's policies and its leader,' Netanyahu says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new elections on Tuesday evening after firing two key ministers in his government - Yesh Atid leader Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Hatnua leader Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.



Netanyahu instructed Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday evening to issue termination letters to the two senior ministers, citing constant criticism aimed at him and his government from both Livni and Lapid.


The prime minister said he will call for the dissolution of the Knesset as soon as possible in order to go to elections and "receive a clear mandate from the people to lead Israel."


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


"In recent weeks, including the last 24 hours, Ministers Lapid and Livni harshly attacked the government under my leadership. I won't tolerate any more opposition within the government, I won't tolerate ministers attacking from within the government the government's policies and its leader," Netanyahu said in a statement released shortly after the announcement.


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In a press conference Tuesday evening, Netanyahu argued that "at the current situation, from within the current government, we cannot lead the country and my responsibility as prime minister is to lead the country."


He said that while his previous administration had achieved much in service of the nation, its current iteration had been forced on him. "The ruling party under my leadership, the Likud party, did not get enough mandates," he said.


Netanyahu stressed that he refused to continue to govern with open dissent from within the coalition, urging the people of Israel to provide him with a safe majority from which he could lead.


After weeks of criticism from Lapid and Livni, Netanyahu lashed out at his two former coalition partners.


Lapid, he said, undermined Israel's "aggressive policy against Iran's nuclear program" by criticizing the prime minister's decision to boycott Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's speech at the UN General Assembly.


Netanyahu with Lapid the day the coalition was announced (Photo: EPA) (Photo: EPA)
Netanyahu with Lapid the day the coalition was announced (Photo: EPA)


The Yesh Atid leader undermined the government's policy to demand the Palestinian to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people when he said in an interview he didn't think it was necessary to make that demand, Netanyahu said.


Both Lapid and Livni, the prime minister added, criticized plans to build some 1,000 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem located beyond the Green Line, with Livni saying the move was "irresponsible."


"Well, Livni is the last one who can preach to anyone about responsibility," Netanyhu said.


"In May of this year she met with Mahmoud Abbas in complete contrast to the cabinet's decision not meet with him at the time, as well as against my explicit order not to hold the meeting. Later she went on to say, while serving as the justice minister, 'Netanyahu's boycott of Abbas is stupid.' And today she once against attacked the government under my leadership."


He also accused both Livni and Lapid of trying to "seduce the haredi factions to oust a prime minister."


Lapid, Netanyahu said, "is a finance minister who failed in the managing of the economy and secretly joins forces with the justice minister to act against the government and its leader. In one word, it's called a putsch."


"Urgent elections are not a good thing but a government that can't govern and has ministers acting against it from within is worse many times over. We need to hold quick elections and form a new government, united and strong," Netanyahu concluded.


'Irresponsible behavior' 

Both Livni and Netanyahu attended a ceremony at the President's Residence on Tuesday evening, sitting alongside each other. But sources close to Livni said it was only after leaving the President's Residence that Netanyahu called her to fire her.


"It's a pity you did not have the courage to do it eye-to-eye," Livni told Netanyahu, according to the sources.


Netanyahu and Livni at the president's residence, an hour before the announcement (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Netanyahu and Livni at the president's residence, an hour before the announcement (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


The Yesh Atid party lashed out at Netanyahu following the announcement. "The prime minister failed in the governing of the State of Israel and in taking care of the Israeli public's needs. The frightened act of firing the ministers is an act of cowardice and shows the loss of control." the Yesh Atid party said in a statement on Tuesday evening.


"We regret that the prime minister chose to act irresponsibly towards the nation and drag the state of Israel into an unnecessary elections campaign, which will cause damage to the economy and to the Israeli society, and all of this out of small political interests, weakness and concession to the haredim, the Likud members and interest groups."


In the aftermath of the announcement, the four other Yesh Atid party ministers said they were considering resigning if they are not fired beforehand.


Yesh Atid's ministers are Health Minister Yael German, Education Minister Shai Piron, Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri and Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen.


Justice Minister Livni was the only Hatnua minister left in the government, after Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz resigned on November 9 in protest of Lapid's 2015 state budget.


Elections less than two years since the last vote seemed almost inevitable after Lapid rejected an ultimatum from Netanyahu in an explosive meeting Monday night ostensibly aimed at salvaging the warring coalition government.


Lapid hard harsh words for the prime minister Tuesday morning, calling him irresponsible for taking the country to the polls for the second time in two years and accusing him of lining the pockets of the ultra-Orthodox with the money of the middle class.


"The prime minister decided to lead us to unnecessary elections," said Lapid at an energy conference in Haifa, which in light of events found itself transformed into a political convention. "The prime minister only wanted to be told 'no' and then kiss and tell. Netanyahu chose to act with national irresponsibility and not meet his obligations to the public."



פרסום ראשון: 12.02.14, 18:27
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