Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not intend to change his coalition, despite pressure from US President Barack Obama’s administration to shift leftward, sources close to Netanyahu said following their return from Washington Thursday night.
The sources vigorously denied reports that the Obama administration had urged him to replace Shas or Israel Beiteinu with Kadima. They said Netanyahu did not believe he had to make a choice between his coalition and Israel’s ties with the United States.
“The coalition is strong, stable, and functions very well,” a Netanyahu associate said. “He would always be happy to expand it by adding Kadima, but he has no intention to defy his current partners.”
Some top Kadima MKs have indicated that if Netanyahu would kick out Shas or Israel Beiteinu, their party would be happy to join. But Kadima head Tzipi Livni has made clear that she is not interested in serving as a fig leaf for a Likud government.
Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman sent a message to Netanyahu that he did not want to sit in a coalition with Kadima when he fiercely attacked the party on Channel 2 Thursday night.
“Kadima leaders must have Alzheimer’s,” he said. “They forgot that when they led the disengagement from Gaza, they said it would bring prosperity. Kadima now wants to bring a second disengagement that would be a second surrender.”
Shas chairman Eli Yishai reserved his attack for Obama, who accused him last week of purposely initiating building projects in Jerusalem to harm Israel’s relations with the US. Yishai told his party’s newspaper Yom Leyom
that the Obama administration had failed to accept that Israel had an election that changed the government’s path.
“I thank the Creator of the world for giving me the honor of being the minister who builds thousands of homes in holy Jerusalem,” Yishai said. “There is a lot of hypocrisy in the American attack on me. The US government has been giving Abu Mazen excuses to not come to the negotiating table.”
Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev also blasted Obama but suggested that, in the face of pressure from the US that he said endangered Israel, a national emergency government with Kadima should be formed.
He said the government could focus on two consensus issues: building in Jerusalem and preventing the nuclearization of Iran.
“I hope all the parties show responsibility and realize that this is no longer a game,” Orlev said. “When it comes to maintaining Israel’s existence, everyone must be willing to make sacrifices.”
In an interview with Radio Darom, MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) called upon Netanyahu to invite Kadima into the coalition, and said that “national responsibility comes before responsibility to political parties, and it is time that the prime minister suggest a fair proposal to Kadima in order to help them out of the crack they have fallen through.”
Hermesh described the prime minister upon his return to Israel as
“defeated, embarrassed and humiliated.” He stressed that Netanyahu’s
actions had placed Israel in a very severe political position, saying
that though the current government was fated to “collapse,” some of the
damage wrought by the prime minister would be “irreversible.”
Hawkish Likud MK Danny Danon compared Obama to the Egyptian ruler who was the adversary of the Jews in the Pessah story.
“As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Pessah – the festival of
freedom – President Obama’s condescending and insulting behavior
reminds us of how we were treated by Pharaoh in Egypt,” Danon said.
“President Obama must understand that we are a sovereign nation in our
own land and won’t bow to foreign rulers.”
Bracha Kurtzer contributed to this report.