Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s mammoth 94-MK coalition will shrink to 91
lawmakers on Wednesday if Habayit Hayehudi carries out its threat to depart in
protest of government opposition to controversial legislation on
Habayit Hayehudi leadership candidate Zevulun Orlev sponsored a
private member’s bill that would retroactively legalize unauthorized West Bank
Jewish construction, including Beit El’s Ulpana outpost. At press time, the bill
and a similar one that National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz proposed appeared to
have no chance of passing when they come to a vote on Wednesday.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu informed ministers and deputy ministers on Tuesday
night that the government opposed the bills, and that if they voted for the
legislation, he would fire them.
“The country has major challenges ahead,
including passing a budget, getting all segments of society to share equally in
the country’s burdens, and the problem of migrants,” Netanyahu said at a meeting
in his office. “Only a united and disciplined government will be able to deal
with those issues.”
Habayit Hayehudi’s chairman, Science and Technology
Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, vowed to vote in favor of the bills despite the
prime minister’s threat. Sources close to him left open a small
possibility that he could back down at the last minute, but they said the most
likely scenario was that he would quit and take his party out of the coalition
with him before Netanyahu got a chance to fire him.
“I am choosing
between bad options, not good ones,” he said in a meeting late Tuesday with his
loyalists, who tried to persuade him not to quit.
While a dozen Likud
ministers had expressed support for the bills in the past, it appeared on
Tuesday night that the only minister from the party ready to be fired over the
issue was Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein – the
only Likud cabinet member who lives over the Green Line.
“Yuli has not
changed his mind that he will not vote against bills that could save the Ulpana
neighborhood from destruction,” a source close to him said.
Edelstein, three Likud deputies will be fired for voting for the bill: Deputy
Regional Development Minister Ayoub Kara, Deputy Pensioners Affairs Minister
Leah Ness, and Gila Gamliel, who is in charge of women’s issues in the Prime
“I was not born to be a deputy minister,” Kara said.
“I am voting on principle. I have a path, and I will stick to it. I don’t
believe that destroying Jewish homes is the way to solve the conflict with the
Gamliel said she was “loyal to the prime minister, but even more loyal to my
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) could also be fired
for pushing for the legislation. Elkin said that rather than threaten ministers,
Netanyahu should adopt policies that would prevent “a tsunami of
The Likud is expected to be heavily represented at a press
conference Katz plans to hold on Wednesday morning, The Jerusalem Post
learned. More than a dozen MKs from multiple parties will be represented,
sources close to Katz said. The lawmakers will be showing solidarity in favor of
the outpost bill and calling on their parties’ ministers to join them in voting
Shas ministers intend to leave the room to avoid getting fired,
but the party’s MKs who are not ministers will vote in favor.
Beytenu is expected to do the same, but a party spokesman said no decision would
be made until Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein gave an official ruling about
the Ulpana outpost, and it was still possible that the entire faction would vote
in favor or against the bills.
Netanyahu discussed legal issues regarding
Ulpana with Weinstein on Tuesday night. As of press time, no information had
been released on that meeting.
According to unofficial reports, Weinstein
already approved the legality of Netanyahu’s plan to relocate the five apartment
buildings to an authorized tract of land in the Beit El settlement and to
further develop Beit El.
He has yet to issue an opinion on the
implications that removing the homes would have for further High Court petitions
against illegal settler building elsewhere in Judea and Samaria. It is assumed
that he briefed Netanyahu on that matter on Tuesday night.
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Lazaroff, Herb Keinon and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.