In a special address to the nation on Sunday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed media reports earlier in the day that he intends to take over the defense portfolio in the wake of Avigdor Liberman’s resignation, and despite an ultimatum from the Jewish Home party that if its chairman Education Minister Naftali Bennett doesn’t get the job, they will resign from the government.
“I will now be taking the position of Defense Minister for the first time ever,” PM Netanyahu said, speaking on the 8 p.m. nightly news from the defense ministry headquarters.
Despite the precarious state of the coalition, with Jewish Home ministers reportedly about to tender their resignations on Monday morning, the prime minister said that he is still trying to hold things together.
Mr. Netanyahu urged coalition partners to remain in the government and avert early elections.
“I will do everything possible to prevent unnecessary early elections. I spoke with coalition leaders and told them this is the time to show responsibility. Don’t take down this government. I reminded them of what happened in 1992 [to the Shamir government] when the Likud government was toppled, and we ended up with the Oslo [Agreement] and the disaster of the [Second] Intifada.”
There is “no place for politics or personal considerations” when it comes to Israel’s security, he said.
Responding to days of criticism over his decision to accept an informal ceasefire with Hamas, Mr. Netanyahu said that he could not reveal the reasons:
“Much of the criticism comes from the fact that the reasons [for our decisions] are based on [classified] material that simply cannot be revealed at this point.
“I have a clear plan. I know what to do, and when to do it. And I’ll do it.
“When I took over as Finance Minister [in 2003], I had a plan of what to do and when to do it. I took over at a very difficult time for the Israeli economy, but we made a lot of progress, for which I paid a big political price.”
At the conclusion of his remarks on Sunday night, Mr. Netanyahu told reporters that “I hope all the coalition partners will show responsibility. We have to work together for the sake of the country.”
When pressed with questions, he refused to answer, saying, “I am going to work.”
Soon afterwards, Mr. Netanyahu received vocal backing from Likud ministers who blamed coalition partners for fomenting the crisis.
“The responsibility for the right-wing government’s existence is on Bennett’s and Kahlon’s shoulders,” the Walla news site quoted Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis saying of the heads of the Jewish Home and Kulanu parties. Bennett said he’ll resign if he doesn’t get the defense portfolio, and Kahlan has urged early elections.
In the same vein, Culture Minister Miri Regev wrote online Sunday evening: “It is irresponsible on the part of coalition members to bring down such a good right-wing government.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also defended the cabinet’s handling of the Gaza conflict against the criticism of Liberman and others:
“The government did not give in to Hamas. I sat in cabinet discussions that lasted deep into the night, we made very difficult decisions, and approved very bold actions. The IDF is doing daring work,” he said on Sunday night.
The opposition began to be heard from as well:
Labor Party Secretary-General Eran Hermoni berated the prime minister’s address, saying “Bibi’s show of charlatanism proves that he is afraid of elections and is ready to make a round of political campaigning at the expense of the security of Israeli citizens.”
Hermoni added, “Bibi, you failed. This government has no right to exist. We are ready for elections as soon as possible.”
Former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon said, Sunday evening, “If [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu does not want to involve outside considerations in security decisions, he should resign immediately.”
“There is no need to go to elections. He should just go and stop dragging the entire system into his survival mud at the expense of state security,” she said.
Updated Sunday, November 18, 2018 at 3:12 pm added comments