Budget Battle Brings Coalition Back to Brink

YERUSHALAYIM -
United Torah Judaism MKs Rabbi Uri Maklev (L), Rabbi Moshe Gafni (C) and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman.  (Yaakov Naumi/Flash 90)
United Torah Judaism MKs Rabbi Uri Maklev (L), Rabbi Moshe Gafni (C) and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash 90)

The government coalition appeared to be on the brink of dissolution once again on Monday, as a report surfaced of a widening gap between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid over the budget and other matters.

As of Monday, they remained at odds, primarily over the defense budget, Netanyahu seeking a bigger increase than Lapid will agree to, days after reports that they were coming to terms after difficult negotiations.

Both Netanyahu and Lapid were maneuvering for a day of reckoning, if negotiations over the 2015 budget should fail.

The prime minister had met with chareidi MKs for the second time in two weeks on Monday morning, in an apparent effort to entice them back into his political camp in the event Lapid leaves the coalition and takes his 19-seat Yesh Atid party with him.

MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism came for the talks at the urgent request of Netanyahu, Ynet reported. Neither side would discuss the proceedings.

UTJ and Shas were excluded from the coalition at Lapid’s behest after the last elections in January 2013, clearing the way for an anti-chareidi agenda, in particular the drafting of yeshivah students and drastic cuts to funding of Torah institutions.

Meanwhile, Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri talked with Arab MKs, exploring the possibility of gaining their support to replace opposition leader Isaac Herzog, if Lapid calls it quits with Netanyahu.

The faction said the exploratory meeting was part of preparations for “the possibility that the budget does not pass and the crisis is not resolved.”