A compromise may be near on the latest coalition crisis, with the government prepared to allow Jews who purchased two buildings in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Chevron to occupy at least one of them while it checks out the paperwork on the deal and issues permits for residency, Israel Radio reported Sunday. The report comes in the wake of continued threats by MKs on the right to vote against the coalition following the removal of dozens of people from the buildings in Chevron on Friday.
Security forces entered the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Chevron, adjacent to Me’aras Hamachpelah, and removed the Jews who had moved into the Beit Rachel and Beit Leah buildings a day earlier. Although the residents – as well as several government ministers and MKs – said that the buildings had been acquired legally, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had demanded to see documentation attesting to the sale – which the residents were reticent to produce, in order not to endanger the lives of the former owners, who, by selling their property to Jews, are now subject to a death penalty sentence by the Palestinian Authority.
The move set off sharp criticism from members of the coalition, including Likud MKs. MKs Oren Chazan (Likud) and Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) announced that in the wake of the evacuation, they would not feel bound to vote to support the government in no-confidence motions that could bring new elections. “It would be best for the government if it did not propose any laws on Monday,” Chazan said Friday, because it was unlikely they would pass – and if the opposition declared them to be votes of no-confidence, that would bring the government down. “It is unacceptable for the Defense Minister to run his own private policy, defying what the government has decided. I have been complaining for a long time about the Defense Minister’s implementation of a de facto building freeze. It stands to reason that anyone who buys a house should be able to live in it, whether it is in Tel Aviv or Chevron.”
Speaking to Army Radio Sunday, Smotrich somewhat softened his tone, saying that “most of the ministers and MKs in the coalition believe that Ya’alon’s actions were unnecessary, and a very serious violation of coalition agreements. I am required to use whatever power I have as a legislator in order to influence government policy. Of course that needs to be done within the confines of the coalition.”
Speaking Sunday on Israel Radio, MK Tzachi Hanegbi said that talk of threats to the coalition were “overblown. We know that we have a fragile coalition, but nobody wants elections now, including these MKs who are issuing the threats. These threats are unacceptable and we will not be governed by threats.”