Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday denied as “spin” the accounts of four ministers in his security cabinet who last week slammed him over the approval of a ceasefire with Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
“Everyone, without exception, supported” the ceasefire, the prime minister reportedly told his Likud party at a Knesset meeting. “They didn’t want a vote at all.”
Last Tuesday, the cabinet agreed to an informal ceasefire with Hamas after the worst flareup since the 2014 war, in a decision that several cabinet ministers later said they opposed.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman — who announced his resignation the next day over the failure to continue to fight Hamas, saying Netanyahu had capitulated to terror — Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly proposed an alternative response, but it was rejected by the other ministers at the meeting. Liberman fumed that no formal vote was held at the meeting, because it was plain that Netanyahu had an automatic majority.
Rejecting such accounts, Netanyahu on Monday told his Likud party members in a closed meeting that the decision to accept the informal ceasefire had not been brought to a vote because all the ministers supported it and made a vote unnecessary, according to Likud sources.
“During the latest round [of violence], we had a cabinet discussion and everyone unanimously adopted the decision of all the security bodies — also unanimous — to wait with the next step,” Netanyahu said, according to the sources.
Adding that the security situation was complex, Netanyahu said he already had plans for the near future but wouldn’t disclose them ahead of time.
“But it is important to me to tell you this so that you know the truth, among all the spins and a lot of escaping from responsibility,” Netanyahu said, according to the sources.
Reports said that the prime minister also assured Likud members Monday that the central West Bank Bedouin hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar would be demolished, though he refused to say when.
“Khan al-Ahmar will be demolished very soon. I will not tell you when, but we are preparing for it,” he reportedly said.
The government last month delayed the scheduled demolition of the village by several weeks, reportedly due to widespread international opposition and threats of repercussions.
Liberman’s resignation triggered a political crisis that almost toppled the government. The withdrawal of Liberman’s five-seat Yisrael Beytenu faction reduced the governing coalition to the slimmest 61-seat majority.
Immediately after the resignation, Jewish Home party chief Naftali Bennett demanded the defense portfolio in Liberman’s stead, warning that, without it, he would withdraw his own eight-seat faction and ensure the toppling of the coalition and new elections.
On Sunday night, Netanyahu delivered a stinging critique of both party leaders and said he would take the defense portfolio himself. “We are in the middle of a military campaign, and you don’t abandon a campaign to play politics,” Netanyahu said. “The security of the country is above politics and personal considerations.”
In a dramatic announcement Monday morning, Bennett reneged on his ultimatum, keeping the coalition alive, in an effort to improve Israel’s “deep security crisis.”
The Kulanu party’s Knesset faction chair, MK Roy Folkman, however, said elections were likely regardless of Bennett’s announcement.
“The coalition hasn’t been functioning properly for several weeks. We will go to elections even if Bennett and Ayelet Shaked don’t resign,” he told Army Radio Monday morning.
Kahlon on Saturday night said that governing effectively will be “impossible” with just 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, as the coalition will be too unstable.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.