Analysis: Will controversial 'Jewish state bill' shake up Netanyahu's coalition?

Netanyahu could still decide to initiate an election.

November 24, 2014 02:45
1 minute read.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem November 23. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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When Shas ministers voted against the budget during prime minister Ariel Sharon’s first term in office, he immediately fired them that night.

Will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu do the same if Yesh Atid ministers and Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni vote against the controversial “Jewish state bill” in the Knesset on Wednesday? Chances are we will never find out the answer.

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First of all, the vote is likely to be delayed.

After a stormy cabinet meeting in which shouts were repeatedly heard from the room, there were already attempts to calm the situation on Sunday evening.

There will be negotiations aimed at toning down the bill that passed in the cabinet. After all, both Livni and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid have said they would back a more moderate version of the legislation.

Are they really ready to initiate an election that polls show would harm their parties because of the wording of a bill? When Channel 2 interviewer Yonit Levi asked Livni on Sunday night if she intended to vote against the bill and take a step that could lead to her firing, Livni avoided answering.

“I won’t support the bill,” she said.


When Levi asked again, all Livni would say was that she would not allow the measure to pass by voting with her feet and absenting herself from the vote in the restroom.

But no matter where Livni will be, there is no Knesset majority for the bill, so why bother getting fired over it? The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties oppose the legislation for political and anti-Zionist reasons, leaving no chance of it passing.

Had there been hope that Shas and United Torah Judaism would replace Livni and Yesh Atid in the cabinet, perhaps Netanyahu would find a way to use the bill to change his government without an election. Shas leader Arye Deri and the heads of UTJ ruled that out on Sunday.

Netanyahu could still decide to initiate an election, especially if he is in an especially bad mood on Wednesday. But despite all the problems in his coalition, that scenario looked unlikely on Sunday night.

The prime minister and his coalition partners all climbed tall trees yet again on Sunday. But they left many safe ways of getting down without tumbling to an election.

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