Coalition Tensions High Over Netanyahu-Kahlon Differences; Likud MKs to Meet Sunday

YERUSHALAYIM -
Netanyahu, Kahlon, coalition, Israel
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R.) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool)

Tensions in the coalition remained high over the weekend, with MKs from the Likud and Kulanu facing off over the difference of opinion between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. In a debate with Kulanu MK Ro’i Falkman on Channel Two, Likud whip MK David Bitan said that if Kahlon does not submit to Netanyahu’s demands to extend the tenure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, instead of shuttering it and replacing it with the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, “we will go to new elections.”

“I am not saying that there will not be an Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC),” said Bitan. “But we in the Likud do not want it. I have spoken to the prime minister about this, and he is ill over the matter. We really do expect Kahlon to respect our thoughts on this. A million people voted for us in order to bring about change. We are not here to follow Kahlon and Naftali Bennett. It is time for the Likud to have some influence on what it feels is important.”

In response, Falkman said that “a coalition is a partnership. You have your principles, and we have ours. We will not agree to last-minute changes that will require the restoration of the annual media tax,” the licensing fee that all Israelis paid up until 18 months ago to support the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA). “It was decided that the IBC would be enacted, and that decision must go forward. The IBC is a reform that was encouraged by Netanyahu and Gilad Erdan, and it has already saved NIS 1.1 billion.”

Netanyahu had previously been in favor of closing down the IBA, but has since changed his mind. The Likud will hold a meeting on Sunday to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog said that if the coalition did break up over the issue, there was no need to go to elections. Speaking to Channel Ten, Herzog said that he had “more than 61 MKs who wish to remove Netanyahu from office” and were prepared to vote on a replacement prime minister. “I have the names. If he tries to ‘violently’ get his way, the Knesset will remove him and there will be another government. I know how to connect people,” he added.