A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in the Har Homa quarter in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday faced pressure to build in Jerusalem from the two former interior ministers who have won the top slot behind him in the last three Likud primaries, Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan.
Sa’ar took a break from politics after hitting a glass ceiling under Netanyahu but stayed in the Likud. Erdan decided not to enter the cabinet on Thursday because Netanyahu did not accept his demand for the Foreign Ministry or the Interior and Public Security portfolios together.
Should the two popular former ministers join forces against Netanyahu, they could wreak havoc in the Likud’s institutions and present a formidable alternative to the prime minister from within his party. Sitting side-by-side at an event at a Jerusalem Day event at the Western Wall, Sa’ar and Erdan pushed Netanyahu from the Right.
“This is the day to say in a clear voice that we should build massively and significantly in all parts of Jerusalem,” Sa’ar said. “This is the time to do it. I call upon the prime minister. Talking about building is not enough. Enough talking. Let’s build.”
Erdan said Israel should build in Jerusalem even though “the nations of the world do not accept our sovereignty and our rights over all parts of the city and even US President Barak Obama, unfortunately, asked for a construction freeze in Gilo.”
Israel, he said, should build in every neighborhood, including Gilo and Har Homa, “without being deterred by or afraid of international pressure.”
Erdan’s criticism of Netanyahu came hours after he slammed the prime minister’s acquiescence to Kulanu’s demand to move the Interior Ministry’s key Building Planning Directorate to the Finance Ministry of Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon.
Speaking at a minister-exchange ceremony at the Interior Ministry, Erdan said the housing shortage was on the way to being solved due to steps he took in the ministry, and shifting the directorate would not have any impact, unlike what Kahlon has claimed repeatedly.
“Transferring the Planning Directorate can cause a planning disaster that can harm the citizens of the country,” Erdan said. “It will be swallowed by the Finance Ministry whose entire goal and interest is economic.”
Given the coalition’s narrow 61-59 majority, if Erdan votes against transferring the directorate, he could prevent the move from taking place. Kahlon’s associates said in response that they were not concerned and “It will be OK.”
Regarding his own political future, Erdan said he was still considering entering the government or remaining in the Knesset, and would make a decision in the coming days. He said he was upset that his demand to unite the interior and public security portfolios was rejected by Netanyahu.
The new interior minister, Silvan Shalom, expressed hope that Erdan soon would return to the cabinet, adding that it was “unnatural” for a key public figure like Erdan to not be in a decision- making role at this point of his career .
“I hope you come back to where you should be after a short break,” Shalom said. “You are still young, and I told the prime minister that he should find a common language with you to solve the problem.”
At the Culture and Sport Ministry, new minister Miri Regev vowed that she “will not lend a hand to harming Israel’s image, its IDF or its democracy.”
Outgoing minister Limor Livnat expressed shock at the way cultural figures have insulted Regev on social media. At a ceremony at the Pensioners’ Ministry, new minister Gila Gamliel was greeted by the late minister Uri Orbach’s widow, Michal.
Channel 2 reported that the narrow majority in the Knesset forced Gamliel to cancel a trip to the US during which she was scheduled to speak at an event of the Maccabee Foundation on Wednesday. The event will raise money for poor students in Israel.
“We are in a war of attrition,” Zionist Union faction head Eitan Cabel said, rejecting a request for an opposition MK to pair off with Gamliel to enable her to attend the event.