After a tense week that led several of the coalition partners – notably Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni – to threaten to quit the government over stark disagreements on the state budget, the Arrangements Law and several other bill proposals, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is meeting with faction leaders in an attempt to stop his government from disintegrating.
Sources close to the prime minister said Netanyahu intended “to make one last attempt to see whether arrangements could be achieved that would allow the continuation of the government, so matters of state could be managed properly.”
They said the prime minister met with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday and was expected to meet with Bayit Yehudi leader Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Lapid on Monday, and later on with Hatnua leader Livni.
The crisis in the coalition has been ongoing for several weeks, with coalition members publicly and harshly criticizing the prime minister. The latest such incident was over the weekend, when Lapid accused Netanyahu of standing by as issues like “the state budget, Israel’s diplomatic relations, citizens’ sense of security, the housing crisis and others” remained stagnant.
“Instead, (Netanyahu and the Likud members) are dealing with the most minor kind of politics – polls and political survival,” Lapid said at a cultural event in Tel Aviv on Shabbos.
“The prime minister is not willing to allow this situation, in which ministers attack the government they are members of as if they were in the opposition, to continue, as Lapid did over the weekend, including his attempts to oust a sitting prime minister without elections, as (MK Yaakov) Litzman and (MK Aryeh) Deri testified,” the sources said.
The Yesh Atid leader’s comments come after a tense week in which Israeli politics raged over the contentious ‘Nationality Law’ that would enshrine in law Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The bill proposal, branded by Arab MKs and rights groups as racist, led both Lapid and Livni to say their parties would not support the proposals approved by the cabinet at the beginning of last week.
“Yesh Atid and I are not against a nationality law, but not this version of the Nationality Law,” Lapid said at Tel Aviv University. “MK Ze’ev Elkin’s Nationality Law put the Jewish nature of the state before its democratic nature. (First prime minister David) Ben-Gurion would not have approved this law, neither would Menachem Begin or Ze’ev Jabotinsky. This is an anti-democratic law.”
Lapid’s comments have been met with scorn from the Likud party, and the prime minister and finance minister have not spoken in almost a month over their disagreements.
“Lapid is breaking his commitment to transfer an addition of billions of shekels to the defense budget meant to facilitate armament with advanced weaporny and fund training,” sources close to Netanyahu said. “Instead, this money is being used on national projects meant to be funded by the Finance Ministry, like moving IDF bases to the Negev.”
Netanyahu, they said, will tell Lapid he is not willing to accept Lapid and his party’s recent conduct any longer. “You can’t govern a state like this,” the sources said.
Netanyahu himself threatened to go to elections following Lapid’s comments. “If I reach the conclusion that I cannot lead the government the way I see fit then we will go to elections,” he said through affiliates.
By Sunday his comments were more direct: “Israel needs stability… sadly this is not what’s happening. Hardly a day passes without us running into dictates or threats of resignations or one type of ultimatums or another while ministers are lashing out at the government and the prime minister.”
“I hope we can return to normal conduct. This is what the public expects from us. This is the only way to lead the country, and if not we will have to draw conclusions,” the prime minister said, in a thinly-veiled reference to the possibility of disbanding the coalition.