Right-wing rebellion against Netanyahu escalates

Three MKs threatened to nix prime minister's flagship bill.

December 17, 2018 21:40
3 minute read.
Right-wing rebellion against Netanyahu escalates

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the ministerial committee on violence against women, December 5, 2018. (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/HAARETZ)


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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition faced a new threat on Monday, as a third MK on the Right issued an ultimatum that could prevent the passage of the legislation Netanyahu cares about the most.

Coalition chairman David Amsalem formed a special committee on Monday to legislate the so-called Gideon Sa’ar bill, which would prevent the president from choosing an MK to form a government who is not a party leader. The special committee was formed in order to bypass rebellious Likud MK Bennie Begin, who opposes the bill and is a member of the Law and Constitution Committee that would have normally legislated it.

Netanyahu’s razor-thin 61-59 coalition majority currently enjoys a temporary advantage, because Zionist Union MK Salah Saad was released from the hospital on Monday after suffering heart problems, and was ordered by a doctor to rest at his home in Beit Jann for the next four weeks. The coalition is expected to receive a further boost as early as Tuesday, which is the birth due date of pregnant Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova.

But because it would change a Basic Law, Netanyahu would need the support of 61 MKs to pass the Sa’ar bill into law. Therefore, he cannot afford any insubordination in his coalition.

The National Union Party of Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and MK Bezalel Smotrich decided Thursday night that the two MKs in the Bayit Yehudi faction would not vote for the Sa’ar bill until legislation that would likely legalize 70 West Bank unauthorized outposts is passed into law.

Likud MK Oren Hazan added his own ultimatum on Monday, when he told The Jerusalem Post that he would not vote for the Sa’ar bill unless Netanyahu meets the following demands: Expelling families of terrorists to the Gaza Strip; an IDF operation against Hamas in Judea and Samaria; and stopping payments from Israel to the Palestinian Authority and from Qatar to Hamas.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation advanced a bill late Sunday night that would allow the families of Palestinian terrorists to be deported from one West Bank city to another after it was postponed three times. Hazan said that the bill was not good enough and there would only be deterrence if terrorists’ families were expelled to Gaza.

“They need my hand,” said Hazan, who lives in the Samarian city of Ariel. “The Likud must care about expelling the families of terrorists at least as much as it cares about the Sa’ar bill. I’m a Likudnik, and I trust my party chairman that he will have the right priorities and return quiet to the residents of Samaria.”

Hazan expressed frustration in Monday’s Likud faction meeting that none of his colleagues in the faction visited him when he was hospitalized at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.

Coalition chairman David Amsalem visited Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara, who collapsed in the Knesset last week, in the same hospital, but he did not visit or even call Hazan.

“Maybe when they look for me for my vote, it will be harder to find me,” Hazan said. “People need to understand we are in a killer competition for the next Likud Knesset slate. If the other Likud MKs see me in the hospital, most of them will sit and smile and hope I don’t come back.”

Hazan, Ariel and Smotrich might not be the only rebels in Netanyahu’s coalition.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren (Kulanu) said he opposed the coalition-backed “cultural loyalty bill” and supported an opposition bill that would allow male gay couples to adopt Israeli children. Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria said she would deal with ethical challenges to future bills as they come.

But Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who has behaved independently on key votes in the past, said he would no longer be a problem for Netanyahu.

“I gave the prime minister my word that I would support the coalition on everything,” he said.

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