PM to consult UTJ on whether or not to call poll, other coalition partners push for elections; Litzman: No compromise on budget.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with the heads of United Torah Judaism as early as Tuesday to round out his meetings with coalition partners ahead of his final decision about initiating early elections.So far, Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi leaders have advised Netanyahu to initiate early elections rather than try to pass the 2013 state budget. UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman is expected to tell Netanyahu that he prefers early elections to compromising on the budget.“[Litzman] will not tolerate any reduction whatsoever in child welfare payments,” a source close to him said. “He will make this clear to the prime minister. The budget can indeed lead to early elections.With God’s help, we will get stronger in elections.The timing doesn’t matter.”Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said he considered early elections inevitable, because none of the Likud’s coalition partners appeared ready to compromise.He confirmed that the prime minister scolded Independence Party leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for acting too independently on foreign policy in a latenight meeting between the two on Saturday night.Barak’s associates said those who suggested that the dispute between Netanyahu and Barak was fabricated were exaggerating just as much as those who called it a fierce clash.“The disagreement between the two was real, but the problems were solved and everything is fine now,” a source close to Barak said.Netanyahu’s associates said the prime minister had briefly considered firing Barak due to his insubordination but from now on he intended to maintain peaceful relations with his defense minister and that he would not be fired ahead of the elections.Following the hour-and-ahalf- long meeting on Saturday night, Barak’s office released a statement saying that the two men had agreed to continue working together to overcome Israel’s security threats.“Barak and Netanyahu see eye-to-eye on every aspect of the Iranian threat, as well as the relationship with the United States under the prime minister’s leadership,” the statement read.The dispute between the two broke out on Tuesday when a conversation between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz – in which the prime minister said Barak was undermining him during recent meetings in the US – was leaked to the press.The meetings in question included one with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, a close ally of US President Barack Obama, which Netanyahu learned about from the press, and another with Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, to which Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was not invited.Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said on Monday night that she still believed the dispute was fabricated.“Everything was part of their show,” she said.
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