Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu..
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid vigorously denied rumors that he was threatening to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, force elections, or form a new government in the current Knesset, in interviews with Channels 1, 2, and 10 Sunday.
Lapid denied headlines in Sunday’s Yediot Aharonot that claimed he had given Netanyahu an ultimatum: “Either [pass my] reforms or we will go to elections.” He also downplayed a threat by his chief of staff Hillel Kobrinsky to form a Yesh Atid-led coalition without elections.
“I don’t think we need an alternative government or elections, and I don’t think anyone wants such things,” Lapid told Channel 2. “I don’t like ultimatums, threats and redlines. I don’t think we need them.”
Lapid told Channel 10 that he was not worried about former minister Moshe Kahlon returning to politics and taking his voters. He said he could persuade the public that in a short period, Yesh Atid had already accomplished more than other parties had in years.
“I am not a magician,” he said. “Whoever wants a magician should go look for a magician.”
Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen of Yesh Atid took a less apologetic tone in interviews Sunday, saying that Netanyahu should tell his MKs to negotiate passing Yesh Atid’s agenda, because it will be implemented whether he likes it or not.
“If the prime minister wants elections, there will be elections,” Cohen said.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who is close to Netanyahu, responded that Yesh Atid threatens only itself when it talks about elections. Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) warned Yesh Atid that those who talk about elections cause them inadvertently.
Netanyahu’s associates expressed outrage over Kobrinsky’s threat, even after Lapid downplayed it. They said Yesh Atid cares only about its political survival and not the will of the voters and that the party would be held accountable for its insubordination.
But sources close to Netanyahu denied reports that he had considered firing Lapid and renewing efforts to bring Shas and United Torah Judaism into the coalition.
The heads of the two haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties met in Jerusalem Sunday and vowed to stay in the opposition, even though they had received offers to join multiple possible coalitions.
“We won’t let anyone use us,” Shas chairman Arye Deri said. “What we need is an election.”