by Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos, Chief Visionary Founder & Owner
JERUSALEM, Dec. 2, 2014 (TSR-Agencies) – After months of growing political tensions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday fired a fierce assault on his coalition partners, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, accused them of attempting a “putsch” to oust him, and dissolved the Knesset ahead of new elections.
Netanyahu’s government, which only took office last year, has been unraveling over an array of issues, including the 2015 budget and a Jewish nation-state bill that critics say discriminates against Arab citizens.
In a press conference which came hours after an announcement, Netanyahu said that the situation in the cabinet was such that it was “impossible” for him to lead the country citing that “in recent weeks, ministers Lapid and Livni attacked harshly” his government, according also in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“I wanted the broadest possible government,” he said of the aftermath of the 2013 elections, asserting that his previous coalition was “one of the best and most stable” in the history of the country. But because his Likud party did not receive “enough seats,” he found himself saddled with an “adversarial” cabinet that was unworkable from the start, and featured “incessant attacks from within the government.”
“It’s impossible to do all the things that are important for the security and welfare of the citizens of Israel” with the current government, Netanyahu said.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, are heads of two separate centrist parties who have been chaffing against the right-wingers that predominate in the Netanyahu cabinet.
Netanyahu accused Lapid and Livni that they had been playing “old politics” and quietly conspired against him to form an alternative coalition.
“Something Lapid and Livni have in common in their leadership is grandiloquent statements about new politics. But in effect they are part of the same old politics,” he said. “In recent weeks, they attempted to entice the ultra-Orthodox parties into deposing the prime minister while sitting in government.
“The finance minister who failed in managing the economy conspired with the justice minister in the dark in an effort to topple the government,” Netanyahu charged.
“In one word, we call that a putsch. It’s impossible to run a government and a state this way, and therefore I advised the cabinet secretary to fire Livni and Lapid”, he said in a televised news conference.
The Israeli Prime Minister listed several instances in which Lapid and Livni defied him and “undermined” his rule — on policies relating to Iran, the Palestinians, and construction in East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu said that Lapid had sabotaged him on Iran by hailing “a new tune” when President Hassan Rouhani came to power, and criticizing him for ordering Israel’s diplomats to boycott Rouhani’s UN General Assembly appearance.
With Livni, Netanyahu said she had defied him by meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when government policy was to refrain from doing so.
“In May of this year she met with Abu Mazen, completely against the cabinet’s decision not to meet during that time and contrary to my specific instruction not to hold the meeting,” he said of Livni, bitterly citing her critique of his ban on meeting the PA leader as “stupid.”
Both Lapid and Livni publicly opposed some of his Jerusalem construction plans, Netanyahu lamented.
It is important to note that the “Jerusalem constructions plans” are considered illegal according to international law and has been opposed by the international community.
“I will no longer tolerate an opposition within the government. I will not tolerate ministers who, from within the government, attack government policies and the person who leads the government,” he said.
The Opposite is True says Ministers
Livni and Netanyahu met earlier on Tuesday. At the end of their meeting, Livni remarked that “already yesterday at midnight it was clear that we’re going to elections.”
Livni fell out with Netanyahu over the nation-state legislation, which won cabinet approval a week ago, but she has looked uncomfortable in the government ever since peace negotiations with the Palestinians collapsed in April.
Sources close to Livni told Army Radio that the reason she was fired was her support for a bill which would curb Israeli daily Israel Hayom’s free distribution.
“Netanyahu and I came from the same political home, but each of us took it in a different direction,” said Livni, who served as an MK and minister in Likud governments before joining Kadima and then establishing Hatnua.
“I believe that I represent the same values that [Likud party founder Menachem] Begin represented, and certainly [Revisionist Zionist leader Zeev] Jabotinsky — values of national Zionism in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence,” she said. “Unfortunately, [Likud MKs Ze’ev] Elkin and [Danny] Danon took control of the party that was once Zionist and moral, and the combination with [Jewish Home party leader Naftali] Bennett made [its] policies unacceptable for me, too.”
The move came a day after Netanyahu issued a series of demands to Lapid for the continuation of the government coalition agreement, which the Yesh Atid party leader rejected.
Netanyahu and Lapid met Monday evening following weeks of tension between the leaders of the Knesset’s two largest parties. The prime minister demanded Lapid cease his criticism of the government, transfer NIS 6 billion to the defense budget, release funds needed by the IDF to relocate to the south, back the prime minister’s controversial “Jewish state” legislation, and spike his affordable housing plan, or else risk a breakup of the governing coalition. Lapid refused.
Livni, in an interview with Channel 10 immediately after Netanyahu’s press conference, accused the prime minister of cowardice in firing her over the phone rather than in person, saying that he “didn’t even dare to look me in the eye to fire me. There was no putsch against him. As far as I know, he made relentless efforts to bring in the ultra-Orthodox.”
The outgoing justice minister said that she had “contempt” for Netanyahu. “I just hope Israeli citizens won’t fall for this,” she said of his accusations at the press conference. “This was all about [bolstering his position in] the Likud.”
“It was a petty politician who spoke this evening and told tall tales that have nothing to do with reality,” she added.
She told Channel 2 Netanyahu had “capitulated” to the right-wing extremists, and that the elections would be a “choice between Zionism and extremism.”
Relations between Netanyahu and Lapid — a former television chat show host whose newly formed party came a surprise second in 2013 — disintegrated over the finance minister’s drive to exempt first-time home buyers from value added tax.
Dismissal is an Act of Cowardice and Loss of Control
The Yesh Atid party responded to Lapid’s dismissal, saying that Netanyahu’s “haphazard move of firing the ministers is an act of cowardice and loss of control.”
With next year’s budget not agreed and growth slowing in the wake of the July-August Gaza war, Lapid accused Netanyahu of putting his political interests before those of Israel.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed in his management of the country and in dealing with the needs of the Israeli public,” the party said in a statement.
“We are sad to see that the prime minister has chosen to act without consideration for the national interest and to drag Israel to unnecessary elections which will harm the economy and Israeli society, all for narrow political interests and a surrender to the ultra-orthodox parties, the powerful central committee of the Likud and outside lobby groups,” it added.
The statement also said that the remaining Yesh Atid ministers would tender their resignations.
Elections would likely be held in March 2015 if, as expected, Knesset members vote in the next few days to dissolve parliament.
The Netanyahu government will remain in power until a new one is sworn in. Without the backing of Lapid and Livni’s centrists parties, it would be a minority caretaker administration mainly dealing with day-to-day business.
As with the 2013 election, campaigning for any 2015 vote is likely to be dominated by domestic issues, such as the high cost of living, rather than international affairs or the possibility of reviving defunct peace talks with the Palestinians.
A new mandate could give Netanyahu more leeway domestically to pursue his expansionist settlement policies on occupied land Palestinians seek for a state. It will also allow the prime minister to push ahead with the Jewish nation-state bill that he says is essential to protecting Israel’s Jewish identity.
Israeli markets fell on the election news, with the shekel sliding 1.3 percent to a two-year low against the dollar.