Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid will meet in upcoming days to settle their dispute over the 2015 state budget and Lapid’s zero-percent VAT housing proposal, sources close to the two men said Tuesday.
Tension between the two escalated following reports Monday that Netanyahu had frozen efforts to legislate the housing proposal. It became clear on Tuesday that the prime minister was unaware of the freeze, and that Lapid had not expected the plan to pass until after the Jewish holidays end next month.
“The gaps can be bridged to reach an agreement,” a source close to Lapid said.
Lapid himself continued talking tough publicly, telling reporters in Ashkelon that he would leave his post if asked to raise taxes.
In an interview with Ynet
on Tuesday, Lapid called the reports about freezing the zero-percent housing plan “an attempt to make political spin out of something serious.”
“I will not give in to every attempt to pressure me in one way or another,” he said. “It is all part of a game. We will not give in or give up. We will pass a budget that is good for the poorest sectors, the middle class, and for security.”
When asked about Netanyahu’s role in the story, Lapid expressed his doubts that the move came from him.
“I don’t think for a moment that the prime minister would freeze the zero-percent VAT legislation,” he said. “The prime minister is experienced.
He knows that a government that starts not keeping promises will not be dismantled by anyone. It will just self destruct.”
Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich said she did not think the dispute between Netanyahu and Lapid would lead to early elections. She said no one in the coalition had such an interest.
Inside Likud, Transportation Minister Israel Katz said the reason there was so much fighting in the coalition was because the parties are not natural partners. Speaking at a conference of classic liberals in the Likud, Katz referred to the possibility that Lapid could leave the coalition and be replaced by haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.
“We agreed on some economic issues, but diplomacy, religion and state are problematic,” he said. “It was a mistake to leave the haredim out.”
Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely slammed Lapid’s zero-VAT housing plan at the same event.
“There’s a battle between the prime minister and Lapid about zero VAT,” she stated. “Do you think zero VAT will help you get an apartment? Let me help you answer that: No. I’m part of a young couple and I’m part of the housing crisis, too.”
Hotovely accused Yesh Atid of being a party without vision or ideology, saying it could never lead the country.