Likud: Land reform will go through

Coalition chairman Elkin backs PM's threat to fire gov't members who don't support bill next week.

Zeev Elkin 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Zeev Elkin 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received a major blow when he failed to muster the support for hotly-debated Israel Lands Administration reform leading to a last-minute withdrawal of the bill, Likud remained defiant, insisting that the premier would succeed in pushing it through next week. Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin backed Netanyahu's threat to fire any ministers or deputy ministers who did not vote in favor of the reform next week. "In the parliamentary field, what is expected of government ministers is to bear a collective responsibility," Elkin told Army Radio. "When there is a government decision, you have to vote in favor of it. The fact that many ministers and deputy ministers were absent from the vote is problematic, and so I believe that the threat was certainly justified." In addition, Elkin stressed that the bill would not undergo any amendments despite the demands of some coalition partners. It came after Labor estimated that after a number of changes, a formula for the bill would be found that the party could support. Overnight Wednesday, Netanyahu was said to have been promised by Labor chairman Ehud Barak, as well as by Israel Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman and Shas chairman Eli Yishai, that their parties' ministers and deputy ministers would back the bill next week. A number of Likud MKs and ministers joined the entire Labor faction in choosing to absent themselves from the floor during Wednesday's vote, forcing Netanyahu to apply a rare clause of the Knesset rules to pull the bill from the floor rather than lose the vote. The bill aims to restructure the ILA and replace the situation in which individuals lease ILA land for 49 years with one where they can own the property in perpetuity. The Treasury estimated that the reform wasn't in real danger, particularly if another vote is held before next Thursday - the last day of the Knesset's summer session. However, the apparent coalition crisis appeared to worry Treasury officials more. "Without political stability, it will be difficult to manage the economy in the middle of a global crisis," they were quoted as saying by Army Radio. Meanwhile, Aliza Barashi, Likud's coalition director in the Knesset, apologized to Israel Beiteinu MK Orly Levy, a former model, after she shouted, "Bimbo, go back to modeling!" when it became clear that Levy was going to vote against the reform. Barashi said the comment was made "in the heat of the moment." Levy said that while she accepted the apology, "this is a fundamental issue about the standards of Knesset discourse." Speaking to Army Radio, Levi criticized Netanyahu, claiming that he had heard the remark yet did not do anything. "The prime minister was very close by, and while I would like to think that he didn't hear the comment, I find that very hard to believe. She [Barashi] screamed it as she entered the hall," said Levy. "The remark was made in the presence of the prime minster who didn't rebuke her even for one moment." Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report