Lieberman predicts coalition will serve full term

Coalition members travel to Safed for festive Shabbat get-together; PM travels to Rome today for interministerial meeting.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
June 12, 2011 01:07
3 minute read.
PM Binyamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara in Safed

netanyahu safed funny 311. (photo credit: Ancho Gosh/JINI)

Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman predicted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would complete a rare full term in office, and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said the same coalition should be formed after the next election, at a festive weekend for 40 MKs and their spouses that Netanyahu hosted in Safed.

Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, initiated the event at the northern city’s Ruth Rimonim Hotel in an effort to boost spirits in the coalition.

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Participants reported a lively atmosphere and bonding among ministers and MKs with varied backgrounds.

Lieberman said the current coalition was the strongest since that of prime minister Golda Meir in the 1970s. When he said the coalition’s future strength depended on all its promises being fulfilled, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that for that to happen “manna” would have to fall from heaven. Netanyahu replied that Israel needed money, not manna.

The prime minister, who is a Levite, was given the second aliya at the afternoon mincha prayer service at the hotel.

Ministers and MKs toured Safed on Saturday morning.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence) were not allowed to come for security reasons, but Sara Netanyahu did attend, and the sextant at the Ari synagogue compared the criticism she endures to that faced by Tzipora, the wife of Moses.

During the tour, a small group of activists shouted at the MKs that they should support a deal to bring kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit home from Gaza. But participants said the people of Safed received them well, and even applauded them from the rooftops.

The lawmakers dined on gefilte fish, Moroccan fish, beef in filo pastry and cornish hen, and drank wine from the Golan Heights Winery.

Comedian Kobi Arieli provided entertainment and MK Nisim Ze’ev (Shas) served as cantor and led Shabbat songs. Agriculture Minister Orit Noked (Independence) stole the show with a rendition of the song “Eli, Eli” sung with men accompanying her, so haredi MKs wouldn’t have to leave.

Lieberman recalled that when Netanyahu appointed him director-general of the Likud in 1993, they reopened a branch of the party in Safed. He said he was pleased to learn later that the house that hosted the branch was where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was born.

The event was intended for MKs and their spouses, while children were not allowed, withthe exception of babies under one year old.

Israel Beiteinu MK Anastasia Michaeli attended with her husband after finding babysitters for their eight children. Deputy Negev and Galilee Development Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) and his wife left their six children with her mother and made a point of attending Shabbat services, even though he is Druse.

MKs Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Robert Ilatov (Israel Beiteinu) brought their babies.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and MKs Miri Regev and Yariv Levin, all from the Likud, chose to remain home with their kids.

Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled (Likud), who is angry at Netanyahu for not appointing him chairman of Israel Bonds, was noticeably absent, as was renegade Shas MK Haim Amsalem.

Netanyahu’s rival in the Likud, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, did not come because his longtime political adviser died abruptly on Thursday.

The prime minister will leave Safed on Sunday straight for Ben-Gurion Airport, where he will fly along with nine ministers to Rome for an annual joint meeting with the Italian government, and talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

A government spokesman said these meetings – which Israel now also holds annually with the governments of Poland and Germany – are an effective way to expand bilateral relations, as the various ministers meet with their counterparts and are able to effectively push through bilateral cooperation.

Netanyahu will meet separately during the visit with Berlusconi, one of Israel’s best friends in Europe. Berlusconi has already stated that Italy opposes the PA seeking statehood recognition at the UN in September.

In addition to this issue, the two men are expected to discuss regional developments, such as the situation in Syria and Italy’s military involvement in Libya.

Netanyahu and his ministers are scheduled to return early Tuesday morning.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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