Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opening speech to the Knesset's winter session, October 27.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday threatened the government of an early election and called for coalition partners to stop publicly "undermining and attacking" him and state policies.
In response to recent criticism of the premier made by various ministers in his coalition, Netanyahu warned that if the government could not function "harmoniously," then it would face an election before the one scheduled for 2017.
"I am not afraid of elections. But the public wants a government that can function," he said at a Likud faction meeting, adding that "We can't function when they [ministers] attack so much."
The prime minister stated that he had not received support on many diplomatic and domestic issues, and condemned the internal criticism for encouraging foreign criticism of Israel.
"Even on something basic like building in Jerusalem they criticized me – encouraging criticism of Israel abroad," he lamented.
The sparring coalition has recently entered a crisis over the so-called "Jewish state" bill that critics argue will harm the rights of the country's minorities.
Netanyahu was set to hold a long-awaited meeting with his finance minister, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, late Monday night in an effort to settle their differences
and avoid early elections.
Netanyahu and Lapid have not met or spoken in weeks while they have argued through the press over issues like the 2015 state budget, Lapid’s housing reform plan, and Netanyahu’s controversial “Jewish state” bill.
Earlier on Monday, opposition leader Isaac Herzog dared Netanyahu to initiate an election. He said the public has lost faith in the prime minister's government and in him.
"Just this one time instead of threatening – do something," Herzog said.
He also lashed out at Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, saying that he had realized two years too late that with Netanyahu the country is stuck.
Lapid in his faction meeting, pleaded with Netanyahu not to initiate an election, which he said would harm the economy and halt important socio-economic steps the government is taking.
Labor faction chairman Eitan Cabel said he will monitor political developments before deciding whether to bring the Knesset dispersal bill
to a vote on Wednesday.