Coalition Insists: Netanyahu Deal Poses No Threat to Government

Workers pack ballot boxes ahead of the Knesset elections, in the Logistics Center of the Central Elections Committee, in Shoham. (Flash90)

The plea deal being forged between opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has become, as expected, the talk of the political system.

Coalition members are in dispute as to whether a plea deal will result in the government’s dissolution. Among those who say it will end up toppling the government, there are those who say it could happen this summer.

Among coalition party leaders, a majority believe a plea deal will have no impact on the government.

“Let’s assume Netanyahu signs a plea deal, what happens now? Who will give up their role to bring in the Likud? Will Bennett vacate the prime minister’s seat? Will [Yamina’s Ayelet] Shaked vacate the Interior Ministry? Will [New Hope party leader Gideon] Sa’ar forgo the Justice Ministry? Will [Blue and White leader] Benny Gantz leave the Defense Ministry? Of course not,” one senior coalition member told Yisrael Hayom. “We need to be realistic. No one is going to move to become a minor minister or deputy minister to make way for [Likud MKs] Yoav Galant or Yariv Lavin.”

According to the official, a plea deal was also unlikely to break up the coalition.

“There are over 70 right-wing Knesset seats. The left-wing parties have not been in control for 20 years. Clearly, the Labor and Meretz parties have no interest in heading to elections,” they said.

“Add to this the state of the parties on the right – Yamina and New Hope – that have serious problems with their base and in the polls, and they don’t have any interest in heading to elections either. [Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor] Liberman doesn’t want a government with Religious Zionism or the chareidim, so he has no interest in another government. Benny Gantz likes the Defense Ministry and is enjoying his status. No one has any interest in breaking up the government.”

Despite the MKs’ confidence, there is a sense of uncertainty as to the coalition’s ability to complete its term in office.

“It’s true that there won’t be any significant development in the coming days,” one left-wing coalition member said. “It will take time before the Likud picks another chairman, at least a few months. There’s no reason for anything to happen until then,” they said.

“But we must keep in mind that this government is hanging on with one vote. The pressure on right-wing lawmakers could increase. With Netanyahu gone, they will find it difficult to explain why they aren’t taking action and establishing a right-wing government. Ayelet Shaked always said she preferred a government with the right.

“The pressure on [Yamina’s] Nir Orbach is immense. And people like [New Hope MKs] Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, who are deeply embedded in the right and only oppose Netanyahu personally, will have some explaining to do. Think also about [New Hope Minister] Ze’ev Elkin, who has made significant political changes in his life. In short, there’s a chance that in a few months, this summer, we will see a change to the political map,” they said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke about the issue Sunday, saying, “To all the political commentators with their graphs and scenarios, rest assured. The Israeli government is working and will continue to work with the quiet and good work that is being carried out day after day for Israel’s citizens.”

Liberman said, “Clearly, Netanyahu will try to return to politics at every opportunity. We will see a campaign to pressure the President with the demand to grant him clemency.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz asserted: “No man has threatened the rule of law in Israel more than Netanyahu. The man used the prime minister’s seat to terrorize lawyers and judges, investigators and reporters. The man who acted to destroy public trust in democratic principles for personal reasons is not entitled to [plea] deals and leniency. Faced with the greatest of corruptors, we must hold him accountable. This is the public interest.”

Another coalition member said Netanyahu’s exit could result in a situation that bolsters the right.

“The current Knesset is the most right-wing ever. As soon as Netanyahu goes, a lot of possibilities will open up. A new government may be established in the current Knesset that is right-wing and homogenous. It may also be that there will be elections, and then even without the current majority, the right will have a majority,” the coalition member said.

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