(photo credit: Tamar Matsafi)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz vigorously
denied reports Sunday that the housing crisis had caused a rift between them
that could lead to Steinitz’s firing.
Netanyahu: Gov't needs to simplify housing procedures Steinitz: Housing prices likely to drop by end of year Yediot Aharonot
Globes reported last week on
tension between the two men, and the possibility that there would be a reshuffle
among the Likud’s cabinet ministers.
Sunday with a report that Likud ministers had urged Netanyahu to fire Steinitz
because of damage he is causing to the government and Likud.
said the main candidates to replace Steinitz were Education Minister Gideon
Sa’ar, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Welfare and Social Services
Minister Moshe Kahlon, Globes reported Sunday evening that Netanyahu had already
decided on appointing the popular, socioeconomicallyminded Kahlon and shifting
Steinitz to the Justice Ministry in place of Yaakov Neeman, who would return to
his law practice.
“Netanyahu will do everything possible not to fall, and
his answer is Kahlon as finance minister,” a source close to the prime minister was quoted as saying. “The die is
cast. Netanyahu is just waiting for the right time to make the
After Netanyahu sent his spokesmen and top aides to radio stations
to deny the reports, his office released a statement Netanyahu himself said in a
closed-forum, praising Steinitz and blaming the reports on political officials
acting out of their own self-interest.
“Yuval Steinitz is a terrific
finance minister,” Netanyahu said. “I have no intention to replace him. The
excellent results of the Israeli economy prove it.”
Steinitz told Israel
Radio he meets with the prime minister every day and he hadn’t seen any tension
between them. He called the reports “laughable.”
“Every time there are
demonstrations and pressure, there are those who want to create an impression of
tension,” Steinitz said. “There is no tension. There is no rift. We work well
together for the good of the economy and society.”
Sources close to
Steinitz said offices of multiple Likud ministers had denied that their minister
was the one who had attacked Steinitz. Likud central committee members wrote
Likud MKs on Sunday urging them to not “abandon Yuval.”
Likud minister was quoted as comparing Steinitz to the ill-fated appointments of
Amir Peretz as defense minister and Shlomo Ben- Ami as public security
But the leaders of the protests against the housing crisis said
Sunday that they actually had no problem with Steinitz, and their anger was
directed at Netanyahu.
“The problem has been going on for a while, so it
really doesn’t matter whether the finance minister is Steinitz A or B,” a
spokesman for the Tel Aviv tent city told Army Radio.
Avigdor Lieberman defended Steinitz to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office
ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
“The housing problem didn’t start
yesterday or the day before – and it won’t be solved tomorrow,” Lieberman said.
“It will take time. The finance minister deserves support. Politicians
often try to hitch a ride on demonstrations.”