Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER,REUTERS)
The crisis inside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition will not be resolved until the deadline for extending talks with the Palestinians, officials in the Likud and Bayit Yehudi predicted on Tuesday night.
Efforts to resolve the crisis are on hold due to Passover and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett’s family vacation in the Judean Desert. A source close to Bennett said he wanted to wait and see whether a deal to extend the talks will be reached by the April 29 deadline for reaching an agreement that was set almost nine months ago.
“There are no mediation efforts taking place right now,” the source said. “He is waiting to see how the talks pan out. In Israel, nothing gets done until right before a deadline. By the end of the month, it will be clear where Netanyahu is heading, and consequently, where we are heading.”
Monday night’s Passover Seder had been the earlier deadline to resolve the crisis, because Netanyahu wanted Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard released by the Seder as part of a deal in which Israeli Arab terrorists would be freed.
Bennett publicly threatened on Thursday night that if any Israeli Arab prisoners were released in an agreement with the Palestinians, he would remove Bayit Yehudi from the coalition.
Monday’s terrorist attack in the West Bank emboldened Netanyahu’s critics in the coalition.
Bennett, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) all released statements saying the attack was further proof that releasing terrorists from prison would harm Israeli security.
“The Palestinian Authority under [President] Mahmoud Abbas encourages and funds murderers of Jews with one hand, and extorts Israel to release such murderers with the other,” Bennett said. “Abbas wants terror, not peace.”
The attack widened the gaps between Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi, countering the impact of a poll published on Friday in Yediot Aharonot.
The poll found that Likud would win only 22 seats, Bayit Yehudi 11 and Yisrael Beytenu 10 if elections were held today.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said the survey was proof that the national camp would be weakened if elections were advanced and therefore Bennett should keep the current government together. He urged Netanyahu and Bennett to resolve their crisis behind closed doors and stop fighting publicly.
But former Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip head Danny Dayan said Elkin’s spin on the poll was incorrect. The poll indicated that the Likud would actually rise two seats from its current 20, to 22, he wrote on Twitter.