Israel Beiteinu aims to make trouble

Despite PM-Lieberman meeting over Turkey, party opposes Netanyahu.

Lieberman 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Lieberman 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
With tensions running high between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Israel Beiteinu, the sponsors of a key bill opposed by Netanyahu were optimistic on Saturday night that the measure, designed to curb the premier’s ability to extend the building moratorium in the settlements, would pass its first legislative hurdle.
One day after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman realized that he had been left in the dark about a key meeting between Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the bill’s sponsors were assured by the foreign minister’s party that it would receive their support in Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and thus become a government bill.
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Even after Netanyahu met with Lieberman on Friday in an effort to calm things down, Israel Beiteinu did not rescind its threat to support the bill, which would require Knesset approval of any future building freeze.
In the course of the meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and Lieberman reportedly agreed to work in cooperation from now on, but Lieberman remained critical of the government’s alleged efforts to appease Turkey.
“This is a matter of practice, and not a personal issue. A decision like this must be made logically, in cooperation with all of the professional elements,” Lieberman told Netanyahu.
The foreign minister reportedly also said that it would damage Israel’s international standing to apologize to Turkey or to compensate those hurt on the Mavi Marmara protest ship on May 31.
Later on Friday, during an interview with Channel 1 news, Netanyahu said that “it was a mistake not to update the foreign minister regarding the meeting,” but emphasized that relations between the two men had not been damaged by the incident.
“I explained the circumstances of the meeting to Lieberman, the mistake was corrected and we continued onward. The coalition is not in danger,” he said.
Netanyahu told the station he rejected the notion that Israel would pay any form of compensation to Turkey or to the families of the nine Turkish citizens who were killed in the boarding of the Mavi Marmara as it sought to break the IDF blockade on Gaza.
“These announcements bear no relation to what occurred [in the meeting],” said Netanyahu. “Israel will not apologize that its soldiers defended themselves.”
The prime minister stated that the secret meeting between Ben-Eliezer and Davutoglu was a positive step towards repairing the Israel-Turkey relationship.
“It is not in the interest of Israel, or even Turkey, that this relationship continue to deteriorate,” said Netanyahu.
But on the eve of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s meeting the tensions between Lieberman’s faction and the prime minister seemed to remain.
The anti-freeze bill’s sponsors – MKs Carmel Shama (Likud) and Uri Ariel (National Union) – reiterated that they had received assurances from Israel Beiteinu that the faction’s ministers would support the bill.
In addition, they expressed hope that a new campaign attacking the 10-month building moratorium had done its part to push right-wing Likud ministers, including Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, to vote in favor of the bill despite the prime minister’s opposition.
Sources close to the bill said that they
had been surprised over the weekend that they had not been pressured by the prime minister to withdraw the measure, which would make it very difficult to extend the building freeze, despite the known opposition of the premier to the legislation.
Despite the sponsors’ optimism, a key Knesset official said he believed Shama’s bill would not be able to pass the Knesset, even though it nominally had the support of many Likud MKs. The Labor Party is almost certain to oppose it, as are pro- Netanyahu elements within the Likud, which together would deny it a majority in the plenum.
Should Israel Beiteinu make good on its threats, the prime minister’s troubles would not end with the one problematic bill. Israel Beiteinu also said late last week that it intends to end the current legislative delay on issues like conversion and civil unions for couples, and party officials will instigate confrontations with the Labor Party on diplomatic issues that were previously avoided.

Gil Hoffman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.