(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas and United Torah Judaism would be willing to enter Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition if Finance Minister Yair Lapid removes his Yesh Atid party over socioeconomic disputes, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said on Wednesday.
Lapid has issued threats over the past two weeks to quit the coalition if taxes are raised, if he does not get his way on the 2015 state budget, or if his 0% VAT housing plan does not pass into law. Gafni discussed the threats when he met on Monday with Netanyahu, who has preferred having haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties in his coalitions throughout his political career.
“[The prime minister] does not want to go to elections,” Gafni told Army Radio. “It is very reasonable to assume that if Lapid leaves because of the [housing] issue, [Netanyahu] has an alternative. The haredim can come in. We are a million times cheaper than him. We are more loyal, as the prime minister has said.”
Gafni blasted Foreign Minister (and Yisrael Beytenu chairman) Avigdor Liberman for telling diplomatic reporters on Sunday that he opposes replacing Yesh Atid in the coalition with UTJ and Shas. Liberman claimed that the haredi parties entering the coalition would immediately cost NIS 3.5 billion in increased payments to yeshivot and the National Insurance Institute.
“It’s unprecedented chutzpah, and it is fitting for [Liberman], because he doesn’t care about the country, only about his internal politics,” Gafni said. “We cost less than all those parties that threaten all the time to leave the coalition.
What Liberman said is unfriendly, unfair, a lie, untrue.
He should not have said it, even if he wanted to gain politically from it, and he didn’t even gain. He is going down in the polls.”
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Gafni said he had coordinated his political efforts with Shas leader Arye Deri and with UTJ MK Ya’acov Litzman, who heads the party’s Agudat Yisrael Hassidic party, while Gafni heads its Degel Hatorah non-hassidic party.
Taking aim at Netanyahu, Gafni said “he surrenders all the time to every threat of those who surround him.” UTJ and Shas were giving the prime minister an opportunity to stand up to his coalition partners, he said.
“If the prime minister suddenly displays courage and does what is good for the country, my point of view is that we can consider entering [the coalition] if Lapid is outside to strengthen [Netanyahu], especially on issues in which Lapid went against us,” Gafni said. “If Lapid leaves over things that are bad for the country, and we think it is good for the country for him to be outside, we will strengthen [Netanyahu] from inside, if it happens – and I say if it happens – because the prime minister is a serial hesitater.”
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) told Channel 10 on Saturday that the time had come for Shas and UTJ to enter the coalition in place of Yesh Atid. Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) has also pushed for such a change.
But Liberman said the current coalition had the best possible composition. He also came out strongly against initiating early an early election.
“Elections are unnecessary now,” he said. “We need national political stability now.
The best thing for the national interest is maximum stability, and minimum political turmoil.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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