The Knesset .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to change the makeup of his governing coalition if right-wing ministers continue to attack his handling of the current wave of Palestinian terrorism, sources close to him said on Tuesday.
Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu told Bayit Yehudi leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked during Monday night’s closed-door security cabinet meeting that if they criticize him like Bennett did during Operation Protective Edge, the composition of his coalition would be changed.
Netanyahu then singled out Bennett and Shaked specifically and asked them if they clearly heard his threat to fire them, the report said.
“Decide if you want to be leaders or little politicians,” Netanyahu reportedly told them.
The threat is not seen as serious, because the Zionist Union is not prepared at this stage to enter the coalition in place of Bayit Yehudi. But Bennett took the threat seriously and toned down his criticism in public statements Tuesday, speaking about “the start of a change in direction” in the fight against terrorism.
On a tour of the murder site of Eitam and Naama Henkin in Samaria Tuesday, Netanyahu denied charges from Bennett and Shaked that the IDF, police, and other security forces had not been given the support necessary to stop the attacks.
“There is no question at all of support,” Netanyahu said on the tour. “Generous support is being given, and everyone knows it. That is, everyone except those who say the opposite, and I think even they know it.”
Sources close to Netanyahu said he was also disturbed by the behavior of Likud ministers Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv Levin, and Haim Katz, who attended a demonstration against him outside his official residence in Jerusalem Monday night. The ministers said they wanted to strengthen Netanyahu, not harm him, but that explanation was not accepted.
Both Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Economy Minister Arye Deri challenged hawkish ministers in the security cabinet meeting and publicly, complaining that their behavior could encourage right-wing activists to take the law into their own hands and ignite a war.
Meretz leader Zehava called upon Elkin, Levin, and Katz to quit the cabinet if they oppose the government’s policies.
“How can you join these protests as if you have no responsibility for the situation?” Gal- On wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. “You are the government. You have been in power for years and the one thing that you have been able to recommend is to protest and scream to exert more force. Who is stopping you? All of the power is in your hands. If you are not able to carry out what you are screaming about now in the street, then you must do something: step down.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said it bothered him to see ministers compete over who could issue the most hawkish response to the attacks. He said there was no chance his party would enter the coalition, and he mocked Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog for considering it.
“It will surprise me if Labor uses excuses to enter and save Netanyahu,” Lapid said. “I don’t think Herzog entering the government will add more police to Judea and Samaria or help the Shin Bet do what it needs to do in Nablus.”
But Herzog used strong language against Netanyahu in interviews Tuesday, saying he had failed on security issues and should quit.
“He needs to resign and initiate elections,” Herzog said. “Netanyahu and his government have completely failed at providing personal security. They fail time and time again and lie to the public.”