Netanyahu rift with Rivlin takes a turn for the personal

Sources close to PM accuse Knesset Speaker of betrayal; Rivlin quoted insulting Netanyahu’s wife.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A dispute between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin intensified on Tuesday when sources close to the prime minister accused Rivlin of betrayal, and Rivlin was quoted insulting Netanyahu’s wife.
The fight between the two men has escalated in recent weeks over Netanyahu’s attempt to bypass the Knesset via the mammoth budgetary arrangements bill and Rivlin’s opposition to Netanyahu’s civil reforms. But it reached new heights on Monday when the prime minister announced support for bills aimed at weakening the Knesset speaker that had not even been submitted.
Sources close to Netanyahu accused Rivlin of “kissing up to Kadima” in an effort to win its support in a race for president that is set for 2014. They complained that Rivlin had renovated Kadima leader Tzipi Livni’s office in the Knesset even though it was relatively new.
“The Knesset speaker cannot be antagonistic to the prime minister,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying in closed conversations.
“He obviously is in charge of maintaining the Knesset’s dignity, but he also must remember that he was elected by the Likud as the candidate of the prime minister.”
Netanyahu said Rivlin owed his election to him, so he expects him to help him run the country the way he wants to run it and not work against him.
A Likud minister added that Rivlin should start acting as Knesset speaker and not as a candidate for president.
“He has to know that the Likud is not in his pocket,” a top party official said. “You cannot climb to the top while stepping on your colleagues.”
At a meeting of coalition faction heads on Monday, Rivlin made a statement that was interpreted as referring to reports that Netanyahu’s wife Sara had vetoed political and diplomatic appointments. When Rivlin noted that there were no candidates for a vacant and superfluous post in the Knesset, an MK told him he should ask his wife.
“Do you know anyone who wants this job?” Rivlin asked rhetorically. “Maybe I will ask my wife whom to appoint. But I won’t because my wife doesn’t appoint people.”
Sources close to Netanyahu called Rivlin’s sarcasm “cruel” and accused him of “behaving like a taxi driver and not a candidate for president.”
Rivlin responded that he had not referred to Sara Netanyahu and that it was unfortunate that Netanyahu had taken his statement personally.
His associates said there was no fight between Netanyahu and Rivlin and accused the prime minister’s aides of trying to create one to generate headlines.