Always strained to some extent, relations between the Likud and Jewish Home have turned into an open rift in recent days. Over the weekend, Education Minister and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett criticized the government for not taking action soon enough or aggressively enough against terror tunnels dug by Hamas before Operation Protective Edge – accusing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of hiding the fact that the tunnels exist from cabinet members. On Sunday, a raucous debate broke out between representatives of the two parties over delays in the implementation of the new broadcasting authority framework, with the dissolution of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
In response, Likud officials were quoted in Yisrael Hayom as saying that Bennett and and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “are the darlings of the left and of Noni Mozes,” publisher of Yisrael Hayom’s arch-rival Yediot Aharonot, which “supports their unending efforts to do political harm to the Prime Minister and the Likud-led government.”
In its own response, Jewish Home said that “Netanyahu is once again firing wildly, as he did when he voted in favor of the disengagement from Gaza, when he released 1,000 terrorists, when he froze construction in Yehudah and Shomron, when he surrendered to Hamas, and when he declared he was in favor of the creation of Palestine” in his famous 2008 speech at Bar Ilan University, where he expressed support for the two-state solution.
“Most ridiculously, he fires wildly in his unending attempts to bring the left – Yitzchak Herzog, Stav Shafir and the others – into his government,” the statement continued. “Moments before an election he knows how to play-act before the religious and rightwing voters, and the moment he is elected he throws them away and even mocks them. We are tired of being his whipping boys.”
Although Zionist Camp has rejected numerous offers by Netanyahu to bring them into the government, the Prime Minister is apparently not willing to give up the idea. As his rival party gathered for a major caucus Sunday night, Netanyahu said that he was still interested in bringing Herzog and his party into the government “in order to take advantage of diplomatic opportunities. Right now there are no talks going on,” Netanyahu said. “The challenges involved would be very great. Once we pass the state budget and we achieve political stability we will have to face many challenges that will require serious decisions that will affect the economy.
“We are facing a changing world, with new threats and opportunities. To respond to them properly it would be better to have a large government,” Netanyahu said, adding that his hope that Zionist Camp will join the government “is one reason why I am keeping the Foreign Ministry portfolio open.”