Right-wing bloc assails ‘dangerous’ Arab Joint List-backed gov’t

“This is a fateful moment in Israel’s history," Netanyahu said at the meeting in the Knesset. "It could be that in the next 48 hours, we will have a government that depends on terror supporters.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the right-wing bloc faction meeting at the Knesset (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the right-wing bloc faction meeting at the Knesset
A government that depends on supporters of terrorists to survive is a danger to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in a meeting of the 55 MKs in the religious-Right bloc on Monday, warning against a minority government relying on the Joint List’s votes.
Leaders of the other parties present pledged their support for Netanyahu and spoke out against secularist policies pushed by Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White.
“This is an emergency,” Netanyahu said at the meeting in the Knesset. “This is a fateful moment in Israel’s history. It could be that in the next 48 hours, we will have a government that depends on terror supporters.”
The “emergency” meeting took place two days before Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s deadline to build a coalition. One option Gantz has entertained is a minority government that has fewer than 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. A new government must be authorized by the Knesset – by a majority of MKs present in the room – meaning 61 MKs are not necessary. Hence a minority government could consist of Blue and White, Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union, with the Joint List voting in favor of its formation, and Yisrael Beytenu abstaining or as a member.
This option is highly unlikely for several reasons, including strong opposition from some within Blue and White, because Joint List MKs are anti-Zionist, regularly accuse the IDF and Israel’s leaders of war crimes, and in some cases, have ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations. In addition, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has long been a hardliner when it comes to Israeli Arabs, calling the Joint List a “fifth column,” so the faction does not want to support a government with Liberman in it.
Liberman said in a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting that he will give Gantz and Netanyahu a deadline of Wednesday at 12 noon to form a unity government, at which point he will decide what kind of government he will join.
Netanyahu said that he hoped Blue and White would stop working towards a minority government, but claimed that it continues to do so.
“It’s so incomprehensible...This government will severely damage Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said, adding that Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran will be happy to be rid of him.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel’s enemies are looking for its weak points, and that a minority government will be just that opportunity.
“What are the differences between Gantz and Netanyahu?” Bennett asked. “They’re certainly smaller than those between [former IDF chief of staff and Blue and White MK Moshe] Ya’alon and [Joint List MK Ahmed] Tibi. What is happening? Is ego that important?”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said there cannot be “a government that depends on those – regardless of ethnic background – who have not accepted Israel to this day.”
Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu’s top rival in the party, also spoke, in an apparent show of unity within the party. He called a minority government “the worst of both worlds” in that it would not be able to tackle national security issues, and it would be a very unstable government that would likely lead to another election soon.
The preferred outcome mentioned by most of the speakers was a unity government, but neither Gantz nor Netanyahu have expressed a willingness to compromise for the sake of achieving one. The unresolved issues include who would be first in a rotation for prime minister, and Netanyahu’s insistence on keeping the 55-seat right-wing bloc intact.
Shas leader Arye Deri said that his MKs will not join any government that starts out as a minority government.
“Shas will not save you,” Deri said, calling for unity.
Deri also railed against an agreement between Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu to make far-reaching changes on matters of religion and state, including civil marriages and expanding the egalitarian section of the Western Wall.
“Their agreement would destroy the status quo of 71 years,” he said. “It would be a new, secular country.”
United Torah Judaism co-leader Ya’acov Litzman said that the party is loyal to Netanyahu, but he turned to Likud MKs who he said tried to pressure him to be flexible on matters of religion and state, adding that UTJ will not back down on its principles.
UTJ’s other leader Moshe Gafni said that “there will be a problem for the children of Israel if the status quo is broken. We don’t want a different country: We want a Jewish and democratic state.”
Gafni added: “God runs the world, so in the end, there will be a Likud government.”