Monday, December 23, 2013

Netanyahu Calls Coalition Partners to Order

by Mati Tuchfeld

Prime minister holds meetings with leaders of Hatnuah, Habayit Hayehudi, Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid after growing tensions appear to threaten government's stability • Sources privy to meetings say party heads expressed desire to remain in government.

Playing the role of mediator. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo credit: Dudi Vaaknin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his coalition partners over the past few days and made it clear to them that the rising tensions within the coalition are hindering the government's work and therefore could not continue. Sources privy to the meetings said that the parties' heads have all expressed their desire to remain in the government.

Tensions in the coalition have soared over the past few weeks, following a breach of the coalition agreement, a series of controversial bills and the stalled appointment of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman.

The strained relationships between the Likud, Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid and the bickering between Hatnuah and Habayit Hayehudi have made it appear as if the coalition is disintegrating. 

The meetings, which took place across three days, saw Netanyahu confer with Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid. The prime minister stressed the importance of cooperation between coalition partners, especially in light of the government's desire to see the national referendum, sustainable governability and equal burden bills pass their Knesset votes.

Last week saw tensions run especially high, as Yesh Atid threatened to bring a bill giving same-sex couples the same tax breaks as regular couples to a Knesset vote, contrary to the coalition deal between Lapid and Bennett. At the last minute, and only after Netanyahu stepped in, the move was postponed.

Prior to that incident, Lapid and Netanyahu clashed over the need to form a committee that would explore the possibility of acquiring a state plane for the government's use, as well as the construction of a new prime minister's residence. 

When the matter was presented to the government, Yesh Atid's ministers were the only ones to oppose it, further straining the Netanyahu-Lapid relationship, which had already become tense over the stalemate regarding naming a new chairman for the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Gal-On commented on the tensions within the coalition, saying, "It's a circus, a farce, it's like a kindergarten and it's a disgrace."

Mati Tuchfeld


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