Bennett and Netanyahu
Photo: Alex Kolmoisky, Yair Sagi
Bennett refuses to back down; 'We'll go all the way'
Bayit Yehudi steps up its threat to reject Lieberman as defense minister if their demands to modify the Security Cabinet are not met; government intends to proceed on vote even without them, all while rushing to resolve crisis; left-wing demonstration in Tel Aviv against Lieberman
Bayit Yehudi Chairman and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett said on Saturday night that he had no intention of modifying his demand to effect changes on the Security Cabinet. Speaking to members of his party, Bennett stated that Bayit Yehudi ministers and members of Knesset will vote against the appointment of Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman to the position of minister of defense.
The appointment is expected to reach the government and Knesset for approval this week, but the education minister's demands, which have yet to be answered regarding changes in the Security Cabinet that include the appointment of a military secretary for the body, continue to create tension in the coalition and raise questions about the exact date of the vote. "Human life is more important than government portfolios. We'll go all the way," said Bennett on Saturday.
Sources in Likud stated on Saturday night that, if Bayit Yehudi votes against the government's position, the result will be immediate dismissal.
Even though a few hours after Bennett's ultimatum, sources in Likud said that they rejected it out of hand, Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu offered on Saturday to create a committee that would recommend ways of keeping Security Cabinet members up-to-date while preserving information security. Bennett dismissed the offer, calling Netanyahu’s statement "meaningless," saying, "No spin will save human lives."
On Sunday morning, the Security Cabinet is to meet, and according to political sources, the crisis may be solved. In the interim, the weekly meeting of the full cabinet has been cancelled. However, Lieberman's approval as minister of defense can be authorized by a telephone vote and without Bayit Yehudi members.
If the crisis is not resolved, however, the Yisrael Beytenu chairman's appointment is likely to engender significant difficulties for the collation in the Knesset vote. Last Monday, the Bayit Yehudi faction announced that they made an internal, unanimous decision to oppose Lieberman's appointment if it is brought to a vote in the Knesset before their Security Cabinet demands are met.
The coalition intends to hold a telephone vote by Monday morning at the latest, and the Knesset's approval vote is expected for Monday night, provided that the crisis is solved.
On the matter, some thousand persons demonstrated on Saturday night in Tel Aviv against the government and called for Netanyahu's resignation. Amongst the protestors was Meretz Chairman Zehava Galon, Meretz member Ilan Gilon, and Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh. The left-wing protestors held signs reading, "Bibi, quit; peace matter more," and "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies."
Odeh attacked Lieberman, "The thousands that are here, Arabs and Jews, you are not a voice alone in the wilderness. You are the hard core; you are the beginning. Lieberman wants to damage the civil society, the Supreme Court, Breaking the Silence and especially the Arab public. We together, Jews and Arabs, will overcome him. We stand against the occupation and will establish the democratic camp, and we will be a real alternative that will topple the right-wing government."