After months of speculation about rifts in the Netanyahu government coalition, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Movement) became on Sunday the first minister to actually resign from the cabinet for explicitly political reasons.
Speaking at a press conference afterwards, Peretz decried the “anti-social budget…that will bring hundreds of thousands of children to poverty,” which will come before the Knesset plenum in the new winter session.
Peretz’s parting shot was aimed directly at Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu:
“A PR campaign somehow convinced Israelis that there is no alternative to Netanyahu. Are we living in a monarchy? There is an alternative,” he declared. “I reached the conclusion that we have to replace Netanyahu and I will do all I can to create the alternative.”
Polls in which Israelis were asked who is most qualified to be prime minister have long shown Netanyahu well ahead of all others.
However, Peretz noted that while he is quitting his job, he plans to remain in Tzipi Livni’s Movement party and the coalition.
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu greeted the news sarcastically, telling Peretz, “Thank you for realizing your place is not at the cabinet table.”
Referring to Peretz’s dovish views, the prime minister added, “You think ‘if you did not evacuate [communities over the Green Line] you didn’t do anything.’ You think the only initiative is to jump off a cliff and give up,” the prime minister said. “We are at the height of an incitement campaign by radical Islamists, who not only deny our right to Yerushalayim and Har Habayis, but to our existence as individuals.”
Although Peretz’s resignation will not affect the coalition majority, it could give a push to existing centripetal forces. Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri of Yesh Atid said that his party needs to examine whether it will stay in the coalition.