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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid embrace in the Knesset..(Photo by: REUTERS)
Top Lapid deputy says Netanyahu's conduct on budget likely to trigger new elections
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah told a town hall gathering in Tel Aviv that the premier “was using the issue of the state budget to go head-to-head with the finance minister."
Clashes between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid on the upcoming budget likely will lead to an early election, a top Lapid aide said on Saturday.

Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah, told a town hall gathering in Tel Aviv the premier “was using the issue of the state budget to go headto- head with the finance minister, and this likely would bring about elections soon.”

Shelah’s comments came after Netanyahu canceled two ministerial meetings that were meant to deal with a budget, as well as a one-on-one discussion with Lapid on the topic.

Likud officials responded that it was Lapid’s “irresponsible behavior” that was leading to elections and not Netanyahu. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Lapid was rebelling due to his poor poll numbers.

“The public does not want to advance elections, which are not supposed to take place for more than three more years,” said Likud MK Gila Gamliel, who coordinates the coalition’s efforts on the Knesset Finance Committee. Netanyahu is taking the security situation into account and does not want a high national debt. Lapid has set unrealistic goals and I don’t see the prime minister accepting them.”

The finance minister wants to pass a bill canceling VAT on young couples’ first homes and not raise any taxes, which would increase the deficit. Netanyahu wants to increase the defense budget, and he and Bank of Israel Gov. Karnit Flug are concerned that raising the deficit too much will bring instability.

During an appearance on Thursday before an anti-terrorism conference in Herzliya, the prime minister said the government must increase the defense budget while making sure that the economy isn’t harmed.

“We must find the proper balance between a necessary increase in the defense budget and continuing a responsible economic policy,” Netanyahu said.

Lapid also spoke before the conference, saying he intended to submit the budget shortly.

“In the coming days, we are planning to submit the 2015 budget,” the finance minister said. “For all intents and purposes, the budget is ready.”

“It is a budget that is entirely geared toward promoting economic growth,” Lapid said, adding that the Finance Ministry was working with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office to solve the impasse over the defense budget.

Shelah also warned on Saturday that the government’s refusal to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority could lead to renewed conflict along the Gaza frontier.

“If there are no negotiations, we are liable to find ourselves in a situation where there is renewed fighting within a matter of weeks,” Shelah said. “If Netanyahu doesn’t exploit this opportunity, we will seriously reconsider our participation in the coalition.”
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