Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, December 16th, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Sunday’s cabinet meeting deteriorated into a shouting match between Bayit Yehudi and Likud ministers over the appointment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as defense minister instead of Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.
The fight in the closed-door meeting began when ministers were asked to vote on the appointment. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) objected, saying she would abstain because Israel needed a full-time defense minister and it should be Bennett.
“We have lost our deterrence,” Bennett complained in the meeting. “The hands of the IDF must be unshackled from the handcuffs of fake law and fake ethics. Israelis are being killed because the terrorists are no longer afraid.”
Netanyahu replied that prime ministers have been defense ministers before. He mocked Bennett for issuing an ultimatum last month to receive the portfolio and then backing off.
“This is a stupid attempt,” Netanyahu said, according to ministers who were present.
Bennett responded by saying Netanyahu should use the same force he has used against Bayit Yehudi against Israel’s enemies.
Likud ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Israel Katz then attacked Shaked, saying that as justice minister she was responsible for approving destroying the homes of terrorists.
Bennett defended Shaked before he left the meeting in what ministers described as “angrily slamming the door.” But Bennett’s spokesman said he left to attend the funeral of Holocaust survivor and journalist Noah Klieger.
The Likud issued a statement that mocked Bennett and said he “started the morning by protesting again his own government, and then continued by putting on a childish horror show in the cabinet meeting in a pathetic attempt to get the defense portfolio.”
“Israeli security is above politics, and the defense portfolio is not a job opportunity for Naftali Bennett,” the Likud statement said.
Netanyahu’s appointment as defense minister was approved with Bayit Yehudi ministers abstaining. However, party officials said they would vote in favor of his appointment in the Knesset and allow it to pass.
Netanyahu has promised to appoint a new immigrant absorption minister by the end of the week and a new foreign minister next month. His appointment as defense minister must pass in the Knesset by February 18, because he can only hold the post for an interim period of three months.
The Supreme Court has given Netanyahu until December 25 to explain why he holds so many portfolios. The court decision came as a response to a petition by Zionist Union MK Leah Fadida.
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