Netanyahu seeks guarantees to avoid an election

Meretz proposes bill to dissolve Knesset; Lapid: Not the right time; 3 parties on Right will form majority, says Liberman.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to seek assurances from his coalition partners that they will be loyal and work better together in the coming year in order to prevent elections, sources close to him said on Monday.
Netanyahu has been meeting with ministers and advisers to help decide whether to initiate an election or settle differences with his coalition partners. Before midnight on Monday he was leaning toward the latter.
The prime minister has told confidants to prepare for an election, Channel 10 reported.
But senior Likud ministers close to Netanyahu who would be involved in such preparations told The Jerusalem Post that they have received no such directives.
Netanyahu met on Monday with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has good relationships with all the parties in the coalition. Liberman is expected to mediate between the party heads and perhaps initiate a long-awaited meeting between Netanyahu and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.
“The most likely scenario is that there will be a few more months of fighting before the divorce,” a member of the Likud faction said after Netanyahu talked to the MKs about the possibility of initiating an early election.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin lashed out at Lapid for allowing his associates to look into the possibility of forming an alternative government in the current Knesset instead of working on settling differences with the Likud.
“I haven’t gotten a call from the Finance Ministry in a week,” Elkin said. “The finance minister apparently has time to explain on every TV channel how he wants to meet with me but doesn’t have time to call me. Lapid thinks he can run the Knesset like he runs his party, but there will not be 101 more rubber stamps [in addition to the 19 MKs in Yesh Atid]. The ball is in his court.”
Lapid continued to take a conciliatory tone before television cameras on Monday, telling reporters at his Yesh Atid faction meeting that “this is not the time for an election, and reports of me building an alternative coalition were nonsense.”
He expressed confidence that the main differences over the draft 2015 state budget and his flagship zero-VAT plan could be resolved in two hours.
Liberman said the current turmoil in the country made it a bad time to go to the ballot box. But he predicted that if this were initiated, half the next Knesset would be made up of the three parties on the Right: Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett warned that the coalition would break apart unless it passes a bill on Sunday declaring Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Labor started preparations for an election. It will begin a campaign against the budget under the banner “Israel is stuck with Bibi.”
“Our challenge will be to topple the government, win the election, and form a new government under our leadership,” Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog said. “The only choices in the election will be Likud and Labor. The public will have to choose between more deterioration, and something fresh and new.”
Meretz submitted a bill to dissolve the Knesset. The bill is expected to be brought to a vote on Wednesday.
“The Netanyahu government finished its work. The coalition is holding the Israeli public hostage,” Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said. “Instead of making deals, the coalition must tell the public the truth: This is a government that does not promote a diplomatic process, that is destroying social solidarity and harming the principles of democracy. So it is better for it to go home as soon as possible.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.