(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has moved too far to the Right recently, the Likud’s Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said Monday in a series of interviews that did not endear her to her faction colleagues.
Livnat was the only Likud minister who did not vote for coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin’s controversial “Jewish state bill” at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. She made a point of absenting herself rather than support the legislation and on Monday called it a bad bill.
“There are those in the Likud who are much more right-wing than the party’s traditional values,” Livnat told Army Radio Monday morning.
“The Likud was always a right-center party and that’s what it needs to be. Unfortunately, there are people in the Likud who are not moderate and are pushing the party to places I don’t want to see it.”
She went further later on Channel 2, saying, “It pains me that the Likud, the party I grew up in, has been dragged to extremism.”
Livnat said in both interviews that she would vote for the bill in the Knesset because she has an obligation to do so as a minister, and that she would not quit her post.
The culture minister has a history of sparring with hawks in the Likud. She has told The Jerusalem Post in the past that allies of MK Moshe Feiglin were “not Likudniks” and should be prevented from taking over the party.
Elkin said he did not know whether Livnat was referring to him when she criticized those who were shifting the party rightward. He said Livnat’s opposition to the bill was news to him, even though he has been advocating it for years.
“I didn’t hear criticism from her when I advanced the bill in the previous government,” the Likud MK said.
Two other Likud MKs mocked the veteran minister, saying that Livnat “was just trying to pretend she’s still relevant.”
Ahead of the last general election, the Likud voted out three veteran ministers who were considered more liberal on certain issues: Bennie Begin, Dan Meridor, and Michael Eitan. Reuven Rivlin, who shared their views, was then elected president, leaving Livnat lacking political allies.
Eitan praised Livnat’s comments and called upon Netanyahu to take her warning seriously for the good of the Likud.
“The leaders of the party haven’t prevented it from going to extremes,” Eitan said. “I hope Netanyahu will realize he has to take action. Moderate nationalism needs to be represented in the faction and its policies. That would strengthen us. If Limor’s voice is heard, there will be changes in the Likud and it can lead to the party returning to win 30 to 40 seats.”