Sources: Likud MKs Could Seek Alternative If Netanyahu Gov’t Falls

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Knesset building. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon later Thursday, upon PM Netanyahu’s return from China, in an effort to work out the tension that has erupted between the two over whether or not to close down or extend the life of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and whether or not to replace it with the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation. Sources quoting Netanyahu on his visit to China earlier in the week said that Netanyahu believed that “the issue is on its way to resolution,” but before leaving for China on Sunday, Netanyahu said that he was “prepared to go to elections” over the matter.

If that is what the prime minister opts for, however, he could find himself out of a job – not because he was ousted by voters, but by votes among Likud MKs, who, according to sources in the party, are prepared to dump Netanyahu in order to avoid new elections.

The issue that has caused the coalition to teeter is the replacement of the IBA with the IBC – a process that all agree has gone too far to halt at this point, despite the fact that Netanyahu, who had originally been in favor of shuttering the IBA, has since changed his mind. The current question is whether to retain all or the vast majority of IBA workers, either as part of the IBC or in the structure of the IBA itself, which would be ready to take over once the IBC was shut down, as Netanyahu was hoping.

The plan is opposed by Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, and some in the Likud said that Netanyahu was taking advantage of the matter in order to “put Kachlon in his place.” Sources in the government say that the prime minister was using the issue as an excuse to reconstitute the government by calling new elections – which he is very confident he will win, a conclusion borne out by numerous polls, which place him as the only candidate who will be able to form a government. The sources said that Netanyahu sees Kachlon, with whom he has had a number of disagreements, as a burden, and undeserving of a position as prestigious as finance minister for such a small party – which, according to recent polls, is likely to shrink by as much as half if new elections were held now.

In a radio interview earlier in the week, Likud MK Oren Chazan said that smaller parties in the coalition knew how to make demands to fulfill their agenda, but were less amenable to helping the Likud carry out its agenda. “We bend over backwards to help them, but when it comes to helping us carry out our platform they are nowhere to be found. This hurts us with our voters, and small parties have to realize that being in a coalition is a matter not only of taking, but of giving.” According to the coalition agreement, partners are required to follow the Likud’s lead on communication issues.

If Netanyahu does try to opt for elections, however, he may find himself with a rebellion on his hands. The voices opposing elections at this time have been rising in recent days, with MKs and party leaders in the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Jewish Home saying that elections at this time would be “wasteful and pointless.” Sources in Ya’alon’s Kulanu party concur, with party officials quoted on Israel Radio as saying that they have “been good coalition partners, and there is no need to break up the government at this time.”

Likud sources told Maariv on Thursday that they did not wish to see elections at this time either. “We don’t know what got into the prime minister’s head that he would want to call elections now, but if tries this, he is likely to lose the support of his MKs.” The sources opposed said they had enough votes to reconstitute a government that falls, under the leadership of a different Likud member. The sources did not name the prospective candidate.

Commenting on the possibility, Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog said that a new government led by another Likud member is something his party would consider joining, depending on who would lead that government. “I wouldn’t say that the chances of joining such a government are high, but I do believe that we need to consider alternative governments and coalitions. This is my job as opposition leader. But I never said that alternative government would have to be led by me. I can see other possibilities, although the chances are not high.”