Netanyahu and Livni.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was slammed as "inept and clumsy", and was accused of "harming Israel's security" by a number of opposition Knesset members early Saturday morning.
Speaking at a cultural event before a small audience in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon LeZion, Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli launched the opening salvo against the premier, ripping him for his handling of a train crisis that left thousands of commuters experiencing long delays on Sunday.
"For infrastructure work to be carried out on the Shabbat is an overall normal occurrence, which only points how clumsy and inept the prime minister handled the situation," the MK said.
What was mishandled, according to Shmuli, was Netanyahu's acquiescence to his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners who demanded that train work not be conducted on the Sabbath.
Threatening to dismantle the government if the condition was not met, Netanyahu agreed and pushed the infrastructure work back behind schedule, drawing criticism for putting politics before the citizens of Israel.
"When the moment of truth came, Netanyahu gave into the ultra-Orthodox parties, which created complete chaos for commuters, instead of making the public interest his priority," Shmuli added.
Following the episode, Netanyahu declared the crisis regarding work by Israel Railways on Shabbat to be over, after the High Court of Justice on Tuesday issued an interim order permitting the work to continue, and stating that any order to the contrary is invalid.
Meanwhile, Shumli's colleague in the Zionist Union party, MK Tzipi Livni, also chastised the prime minister, this time taking issue with comments he made in a video posted to Facebook Friday evening before the start of Shabbat.
In the two-minute clip, Netanyahu said the Palestinians wanted to form a state devoid of a Jewish population and termed it "ethnic cleansing", drawing sharp criticism from the United States.
"With this one video, designed either for the ears of Likudniks or (American) Republicans, Netanyahu is helping destroy all the achievements made by (former prime minister Ariel) Sharon," the MK said during a parallel cultural event held in Holon.
Following the clip's release, US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said at a briefing in Washington that the Israeli leader's words were "inappropriate and unhelpful."
"We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful," she said.
Livni added that Netanyahu's continued collisions with the United States would bring an "end of the right of return" for Jews to Israel and the destruction of our "separation fence."
"When the people of Israel wake up and want to be separated from the Palestinians, it will be too late," Livni said, adding "Netanyahu harms our security."
Reuters and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this article.