Jewish Home Minister: We Won’t Back Down on Liaison Demand

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett speaks during a party meeting at the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett speaks during a party meeting at the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After adding five members of Yisrael Beytenu to his government, Binyamin Netanyahu could find himself in coalition hot water again – as Jewish Home chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett termed as “unacceptable” a compromise offered by the Prime Minister over Bennett’s demand that the security cabinet be kept informed on details of the IDF’s ongoing operations and strategy.

Speaking on Army Radio Sunday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of Jewish Home, said that the party would not compromise on its demands. “We as cabinet members deserve to know the risks and responsibilities we face during war time, and we need to receive the relevant information before making decisions.

“This is not a matter of party politics or cabinet positions,” said Shaked. “We will vote against the nomination of Avigdor Liberman as Defense Minister unless this issue is resolved. This is not a complicated matter.”

Bennett himself sad Friday that his party would not back down on a demand that the government appoint a liaison that would keep cabinet members informed of ongoing defense issues. “Members of the security cabinet do not get any special training, and they cannot go into the field each day to see what is going on,” he said. “They need a trusted authority who can provide them with accurate information on a regular basis.”

Had such a liaison been available before Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Bennett said, the government would have had vital information about Gaza terror tunnels before the war started. “Especially now that we have lost someone as professional as Moshe Yaalon, we need this liaison,” said Bennett, adding that he would instruct Jewish Home minister not to approve the coalition expansion unless the issue was addressed.

On Friday, it was reported that Netanyahu had appointed a special panel to examine ways to fulfill Jewish Home’s demands, but the solution was rejected by the party, which is concerned that the panel will melt into bureaucratic oblivion once Liberman’s appointment is approved. Sources in Jewish Home said that they intended to go “to the end” with their demand – and that without the appointment of the liaison, they would vote against Liberman’s appointment.

In response, government sources on Channel Ten said that if Jewish Home does so, Netanyahu will fire Bennett, Shaked and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, leading to an almost certain resignation of Jewish Home from the government – and leaving Netanyahu with 58 Knesset members in his coalition, and subject to a no-confidence vote.

Given that, said analysts on Israel Radio Sunday, Netanyahu would be left with two choices; either convince Zionist Camp in part or whole to join the government, or ask Yesh Atid to join. The former is very unlikely, analysts said, given the acrimonious way the negotiations between Netanyahu and Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog ended last week. Reports over the weekend said that Netanyahu had already attempted to bring Yesh Atid into the coalition, offering party head Yair Lapid the position of Foreign Minister – but was turned down by him as well.