A host of senior government ministers, including from the Likud, came out strongly against holding new elections on Sunday, in defiance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent willingness to go to the ballot box over the nascent Israel Broadcasting Cooperation
Transport Minister and Netanyahu’s Likud party colleague Yisrael Katz, said the furor over the IBC was no reason to go to the polls, as did Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, also from the Likud, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, saying that new elections were damaging and unnecessary.
Netanyahu is determined to prevent the IBC from beginning operations and said on Saturday night that if Kulanu leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon did not agree to shut it down, he would dissolve the government.
“You don’t go to elections over a media argument,” Katz said in an interview on Sunday morning with Army Radio, adding that there had been no internal discussions or decisions in the Likud party and leadership about such a step, and noting that there were disagreements over substantive issues within the coalition.
Liberman spoke in similarly blunt terms.
“Anyone with intelligence understands that elections are the last thing the Jewish people need at this moment,” said Liberman during a visit to the IDF base at Tel Hashomer.
“There is no reason to break up the current coalition. Everyone needs to do the maximum in order to keep working properly.”
Steinitz said that early elections would be “pure damage” to the state and to good governance, saying that the country needed stability and for a compromise to be worked out between Netanyahu and Kahlon.
Shaked wrote on Twitter that “responsibility and discretion” were needed to prevent elections, adding that the issue of the IBC was not an ideological argument and there was no reason to disassemble the government over it.
She also said that she believed the crisis would be resolved through a compromise.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu allies Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin took to the airways to defend the prime minister against allegations that his opposition to the IBC was not sufficient reason to call to dissolve the Knesset and call elections.
Regev framed the dispute as a violation of the coalition agreement signed between Likud and Kulanu, and insisted that just like Likud had supported legislation for other coalition partners, those parties needed to get behind bills important to the prime minister.
“No one is afraid of elections, the public will determine if one needs to abide by coalition agreements or not,” she said on Army Radio.
“It can’t be that whenever we’re talking about the Likud’s coalition agreements, that there is some excuse not to fulfill them. We will blow it up not over the IBC, but over the principle, we will blow things up on the principle that coalition agreements need to be fulfilled.”
Regev argued that the Israel Broadcasting Authority, scheduled to be shuttered when the IBC begins operations, was working fine, and that it would be cheaper to keep the IBA running.
The fiery minister said that the IBC would be “a closed club” and would be unrepresentative of Israeli society and without sufficient oversight or regulation.