Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of Yamina, a close political ally of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has been recorded talking down on coalition partners Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz and casting doubt on whether the premiership rotation agreement between Bennett and Lapid would be honored come 2023.
The recordings aired by Channel 12 news on Wednesday were the latest signs of the growing fissures within the diverse coalition, ahead of a crucial budget vote next month upon which the government’s survival hinges.
In the tapes, the No. 2 in Bennett’s Yamina party also accused Foreign Minister Lapid of botching ties with Jordan and the US. Shaked can be heard calling Lapid “shallow” in the tapes, while claiming Bennett is constantly having to clean up after him.
“Every week Lapid drops a bomb and Naftali comes to the rescue. Every week, and no one knows,” she said, apparently referring to diplomatic faux pas.
“He did this like three times, with the Jordanians, with the Americans… and Naftali came to the rescue, unequivocally,” Shaked added. It was not clear what incidents she was referring to.
Shaked also took a swipe at Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who she said was “even worse than Lapid,” though she provided no further information in the recordings.
The network also quoted Shaked as questioning whether Yamina will honor the rotation agreement that would see Lapid take over as premier in 2023 — though it did not air a recording of those remarks.
“I have no comment about that,” she was quoted as saying. “I don’t know what will happen. It depends if there’s a crisis or not. We’ll see.”
It was not clear who Shaked was speaking to in the leaked recordings.
In a statement to the network, Shaked said she’d made the statements in anger after a minister made anonymous comments against her to the press earlier this month, attacking her for saying she doesn’t support a two-state solution during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Channel 12 said Shaked had called Lapid shortly before the TV segment aired to express her regret.
The incident comes amid increased tensions in the coalition of right-wing, left-wing and centrist parties, as well as an Islamist one. The narrow governing coalition must pass a 2021 budget by November 14, and Bennett and other ministers have warned against rocking the boat in the run-up to that vote. If the much-delayed budget — it would be the first state budget to be approved in over three years — does not pass by the deadline, the coalition will automatically dissolve, triggering new elections.
The government will need all of its lawmakers on board to approve the budget.
The coalition has recently been strained by the approval of thousands of new settlement units and the designation of six Palestinian civil society groups as terror organizations. Those decisions have been met with outrage by the left-wing flank of the government.
Earlier Wednesday, the Labor party tweeted shortly after the announcement of settlement housing approvals: “Those who make policy declarations with international implications irresponsibly, without coordination and without preparation, and approve the construction of 3,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria — how can we put this — they are no [Yitzhak] Rabin.”
The comment was a jab at Gantz, who has reportedly said he wishes to be “the new Rabin,” referring to the late Israeli premier who signed the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians.
Gantz’s Blue and White party quickly retorted on Twitter: “Those who call for conscientious objection should not preach on security and diplomatic responsibility.” The comment may have been referring to a 2010 radio interview in which current Labor leader Merav Michaeli said she didn’t think mothers should send their sons to the army (though she later walked back the remarks).
Gantz also recently declared six Palestinian human rights groups to be “terror organizations,” a move which was slammed by Michaeli, the government’s transportation minister, and other left-wing coalition members. The defense minister responded then by saying that Michaeli should “not get in the way of the war on terror.”
Also Wednesday, a Yamina lawmaker left the party’s WhatsApp group amid a dispute with another party MK, calling them a “party of idiots.” Abir Kara later returned to the group and also met with Bennett to resolve the matter.