Tension between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners on the Right and Left escalated on Monday, ahead of decisions that will be made regarding further talks with the Palestinians and limiting West Bank construction.
The members of Netanyahu’s coalition had worked together relatively harmoniously in its first year and a half, in part because the gap on diplomatic issues between Labor chairman Ehud Barak on the Left and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the Right did not create serious problems.
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But the debate over whether Israel should make further sacrifices to keep the Palestinians at the negotiating table has deepened the rift to an extent that it could be difficult for Netanyahu to continue to keep both sides satisfied.
Labor officials accused Lieberman on Monday of being behind reports that suggested that Barak was working together with US President Barack Obama’s administration to force Netanyahu to resume a construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria for two more months. The report suggested that a deal that the American had reportedly offered Netanyahu was actually both suggested and leaked by Barak.
Barak’s deputy at the Defense Ministry, MK Matan Vilna’i (Labor), fiercely attacked Lieberman in an Army Radio interview, calling him a troublemaker and warmonger who does not contribute anything as foreign minister.
Israel Beiteinu politicians retaliated by attacking Vilna’i.
National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said Vilna’i had “lost his marbles,” while Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that Vilna’i and his allies had led their party to a new low.
Candidates to succeed Barak as Labor leader continued to pressure Netanyahu to do whatever was necessary to maintain the diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said the government would be judged by history based on whether it examined all possible alternatives.
“We’re in the government to advance the diplomatic process,” Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman told reporters outside Monday’s cabinet meeting. “If there is no diplomatic process, it is clear that we won’t be in the government.”
Meanwhile on the Right, National Union Leader Ya’acov Katz, not a member
of the coalition, attacked Habayit Hayehudi chairman Daniel
Herschkowitz for not issuing an ultimatum that his threeman faction
would leave the coalition if Netanyahu decided to re-institute a freeze.
Katz predicted that if Habayit Hayehudi issued such a threat, the prime
minister would have no choice but to back down, because the departure of
the three MKs would give Labor the leverage to be able to bring down
the government by leaving the coalition.
“Your staying in the government allows Netanyahu to freeze building for
my constituents,” Katz wrote to Herschkowitz. “Because of this, I must
fight you with all my might.”