The distrust between the Likud and the Religious Zionist Party during the coalition negotiations will continue once the government is formed, Likud MK David Bitan predicted on Thursday on Israel Radio.
“I don’t think this [new] government will live out its days,” Bitan said. “It’s not just forming the government, there will be problems afterward. These things will create a bad atmosphere.”
Bitan has been the only MK from the Likud to criticize party leader and prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu over the latter’s handling of the negotiations.
Bitan justified the public criticism by claiming that Netanyahu acted against him during the Likud’s primary.
Netanyahu and chief negotiator MK Yariv Levin “should have known that RZP chairman [Bezalel] Smotrich was going to be tough and have many demands,” Bitan said in the interview.
Bitan argued that the seeds to the exaggerated demands were planted during the past year and a half in the opposition, where “to maintain unity, the Likud folded all the time.”
Likud, RZP trade jabs regarding delayed negotiations
The Likud and RZP traded public accusations on Wednesday as to who was responsible for the delayed negotiations. RZP said it had made a number of concessions since it first listed its demands two weeks ago, but that on Tuesday the Likud reneged on all of its promises, effectively bringing the sides back to square one. Voters chose RZP to implement a right-wing agenda, and the party will not compromise on receiving the tools it needs to do so, the party said.
One of the leading items on its agenda is to take control over civil matters pertaining to citizens living in settlements, as well as acting against Palestinians illegally taking over parts of Area C.
“How is it that the Likud is unwilling to change the attitude towards the Palestinian Authority, to stop begging for its cooperation, and finally begin to treat it as an enemy, and ourselves as the bosses?”MK Orit Struk (Religious Zionist Party)
RZP No. 3, MK Orit Struck, expounded on this in a long Facebook post on Wednesday. Struck argued that for more than 12 years Israel has been sticking its head in the sand facing a “organized, financed and outspoken” PA policy intended to “throttle Jewish settlement” and “unilaterally form a Palestinian state, which it knows it will not receive in negotiations because most Israelis oppose this.”
She wrote that the takeover of open space in Area C has gotten to a point where “in nearly every region it has crept up to the very gates of the settlements,” and that Israel and the IDF were not doing enough to stop this. Struck claimed that all of the Likud MKs agreed with her on this and spoke against it in Knesset committees.
“So how can it be that now, when we were finally chosen to return to power and engage in this critical battle, the Likud is demanding to return to a policy of [sticking its head in the sand]? To live alongside the large land robbery and not prevent it determinedly?
“How is it that the Likud is unwilling to change the attitude towards the Palestinian Authority, to stop begging for its cooperation, and finally begin to treat it as an enemy, and ourselves as the bosses?”
Struck then challenged her own party. She cited a Hasmonean source that spoke about returning the land of its forefathers, and asked, “Will we also know how to return the land of forefathers? Will we also be blessed with a national change of direction?”
UTJ also expressed growing exasperation with the Likud’s conduct.
The Likud put out a statement during the week that it had reached agreements with the ultra-Orthodox party – only for the party to clarify that the statement was not true. UTJ was offered less relative to its size than the other parties, has not met with the Likud for two days and is “furious” with its conduct, the party said.
Otzma Yehudit also has not reached agreements with the Likud. It is insisting on receiving the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, Negev and Galilee, which is currently intended for Shas.
The party reportedly turned down an offer on Wednesday to receive the Agriculture Ministry instead, and also refused an offer to split the ministry in two and receive the Negev and Galilee Ministry, with the Development of the Periphery Ministry going to Shas.