Netanyahu at cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called upon Labor, Meretz, Kadima, Shas, and United Torah Judaism to join a national unity government Tuesday at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
“I think the citizens of Israel expect from us at this moment to stand together as one, united,” Netanyahu said. “What is needed at this time is national unity.”
He also called upon the parties in his coalition to set aside their differences of the past few weeks and resume cooperation. Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin immediately started working on building the unity government.
Labor and Meretz turned down the offer. Labor leader Isaac Herzog said his party would not join a government that does not provide Israelis security or hope. Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said the party could support the war on terrorism from the opposition. Shas leader Arye Deri said he would ask his party’s Council of Torah Sages.
Netanyahu and his coalition partners stopped fighting among themselves at least for a day on Tuesday following the terrorist attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
They abandoned their squabbles over the 2015 state budget and Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s zero-VAT plan and focused on mourning the victims of the attack. Less than 12 hours after they issued statements warning of elections, MKs called for political calm following the attack.
“This is not the time for politics,” Elkin said. “Israel has so many huge challenges ahead, [it] does not need elections, instability or a political mess. Israel needs a government that is as wide, unified, and stable as possible.
That is the goal. I hope that all our coalition partners can overcome their divisiveness and find a way to coexist in a stable government under Netanyahu without political tricks.”
The heads of the parties in the coalition appeared to take Elkin’s advice.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni made a point of attacking the Palestinian leadership and not the Israeli Right in interviews they gave Tuesday. Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett attacked the Palestinians as well and not Livni or Lapid.
MKs in Bennett’s party endorsed the formation of a national unity government.
“Amid the horrible slaughter and rising terror, this is the time for a unity government,” Bayit Yehudi MK Mordechai Yogev said. “All the arguments should be forgotten and we should be dealing only with security in Jerusalem and achieving affordable housing.”
His party colleague Nissan Slomiansky added that the MKs in the coalition should “stop dealing with what divides us and internal struggles and allow us all to unite in an uncompromising fight against terrorism.”