Netanyahu and Bennett in another rift, this time over public broadcasting
The prime minister and his education minister exchange barbs through statements made by their parties, with each side blaming the other of serving the left wing; 'It's 37 degrees Celsius in Jerusalem, which must be affecting the ministers as well. They need to take a vacation before they end up in the hospital,' says Finance Minister Kahlon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) have been embroiled in another public confrontation this week, this time over the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC).
Their latest clash came in the wake of an ongoing dispute between the two over the State Comptroller's report on Operation Protective Edge and the threat of tunnels from Gaza.
During a government meeting on Sunday, several of the Likud party's ministers made comments against the IPBC, including Culture Minister Miri Regev who wondered: "What good is the corporation if we can't control it?"
Bennett retorted that communications ministers over the past few years have been from the Likud party, adding "Why are you complaining? Start controlling."
The Bayit Yehudi leader asserted that the Likud party was trying to undermine the journalists working for the IPBC.
The clash at the government meeting led the Likud party on Sunday evening to issue a statement, in which it dubbed Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Bayit Yehudi, "the left wing's champions."
Bennett's party responded the next morning, accusing Netanyahu of "cutting off the nose to spite the face.
"Just as he did when he voted in favor of the Gaza Disengagement and the demolition of Gush Katif; or as he released the most terrorists in the history of the State of Israel; when he froze (settlement) construction; when he surrendered to Hamas; when he declared the establishment of Palestine in Bar Ilan; and as he counts the number of kippah-wearing journalists in the media. And the most absurd thing was that he cut off the nose to replace it with Bougie (Isaac Herzog), (Stav) Shaffir, (Merav) Michaeli and Yossi Yona."
Bayit Yehudi officials claimed Netanyahu was systematically fighting against the free press in Israel and stressed that they were not scared of a confrontation with the prime minister. "Any attack will be met with an attack," the officials said.
The ruling party returned fire, coming out with a statement shortly after Bayit Yehudi's scathing criticism, which accused Bennett of being a leftist.
"Bennett is panicking because he knows the truth. He who was elected by the right is perserving the legacy of (Palestinian poet Mahmoud) Darwish at Israeli schools and fights tooth and nail to maintain the left-wing's hegemony in the media," the Likud statement said. "Bennett hasn't been with the right for a very long time. Along with his 'brother' (Yair) Lapid, he keeps digging tunnels to undermine the Likud rule."
Coalition chairman MK David Bitan also slammed the Bayit Yehudi leader, saying "We're tired of him. It's always the same story. He needs to make up his mind and tell us what he wants."
Officials in both parties, however, stressed that despite the recent rift between Netanyahu and Bennett, the education minister has no intention of quitting the coalition and ending the partnership between the two parties. Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber, a close confidant of Netanyahu, is mediating between the two.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), exasperated by the latest squabble, told Yedioth Ahronoth, "It's 37 degrees (Celsius) in Jerusalem, which must be affecting the ministers as well. They need to take a vacation before they end up in the hospital."