Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu chided his party Monday night amid a series of damaging leaks, telling Likud Knesset members to “hold your tongues” during a stormy faction meeting because “everything here gets recorded.”
Those comments were themselves recorded and leaked to the media.
The recording obtained by Channel 13 was from a meeting during which Likud discussed a compromise offered by the coalition on a contentious bill to fund scholarships for soldiers. Likud eventually agreed to abstain on the vote, allowing the coalition to pass it.
Ahead of the vote, both the coalition and opposition fired broadsides at each other over the bill, accusing their opponents of neglecting veterans and damaging security.
Likud had demanded the scholarships cover 100 percent of veterans’ tuition, while the coalition’s bill had it cover two-thirds, forcing a late-night standoff over the popular legislation. The coalition did not have enough votes to approve the bill if the opposition had voted against it.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz eventually offered Likud to amend the bill to cover 75% of the expenses, putting the ball in Likud’s court, leading to the recorded meeting.
Likud Knesset member Yuval Steinitz said at the closed-door meeting that the party should oppose the compromise.
“They waged a media campaign against us. We already paid the price,” he said. “We’re not a security net for this government if they don’t have a majority.”
“I fear that if we back this compromise — it’s a small compromise, they didn’t offer 80% or 85% — it’s a dangerous precedent. We’re making fools of ourselves after everything that we’ve said in the past week,” Steinitz said.
Netanyahu then interjected, saying loudly, “I suggest you hold your tongues. Really. Everything here gets recorded and broadcast. Come on. There are things here, people doing things they shouldn’t, so I’m telling you to hold your tongues.”
At one point, it sounded like Netanyahu pounded the table while speaking.
Likud decided to accept the compromise proposal during the meeting and withdrew its opposition, letting the legislation pass.
In separate leaked recordings from a closed-door Likud meeting that were released on Monday, lawmaker Miri Regev was heard saying the opposition should vote against legislation that benefits soldiers and rape victims in order to bring down the government, while the party was discussing the scholarship bill.
“We decided as a party that we’re going to be a fighting opposition and that we want to bring down this government,” Regev could be heard saying at last week’s meeting. “So there is no queasiness [when voting against] the disabled, and there is no queasiness with cases of rape, and no queasiness with battered women, and no queasiness with soldiers, because we all understand that this is the rationale.”
Steinitz said at that meeting that backing the bill for combat veterans would lead to further undesirable cooperation with the coalition on other bills. “Tomorrow it’ll be widows, orphans, the periphery, a million and one disabled people, the sick, the elderly and Holocaust survivors, everything.”
Regev’s remarks ahead of the vote not only sparked outrage among coalition lawmakers, who were quick to say that the recording exposed the cruelty of the opposition, but also among activists and aid organizations.
Regev defended her comments on Tuesday, saying they did not warrant an apology and were “taken out of context.”
“I have nothing to apologize for,” Regev said, blaming the person who leaked the recordings. “The person who should be apologizing is whoever was in the faction meeting and took this grave action of recording it and taking things out of context.”
Later Tuesday, Regev again declined to apologize for her statements.
“I apologize on behalf of whoever leaked half of my comments,” she told Channel 12. “I said then that [the coalition] needs our vote to pass sensitive laws, and we need to put a price tag on that.”
“We need to decide if we are bringing down this coalition or keeping it on life support. It can’t pass any Zionist law without us,” she said.
Channel 13 said it had a full recording of Regev’s comments, during which she spoke for some eight minutes, mostly complaining about the fact that the party did not predict the backlash from its refusal to support the scholarship bill and pushing for Likud to stick to its guns on not supporting anything from the coalition short of a war declaration.
The fuller recording did not significantly change the meaning of her earlier-reported comments.