Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a compromise late Sunday night on a demand by Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett to overhaul the security cabinet, staving off a coalition crisis that was threatening to sink the government.
Bennett, a senior cabinet member, had threatened to vote against the recent appointment of Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman to the defense ministry — thus torpedoing a new coalition deal between the ruling Likud and Yisrael Beytenu — if his demand for greater intelligence-sharing in the high-level security cabinet was not met.
The Jewish Home head wanted Netanyahu to appoint a military attaché for each member of the sensitive 10-member inner cabinet committee to provide ministers with real-time security updates, coordinate additional fact-finding visits to IDF bases and other military zones, and facilitate easier access to classified information.
Netanyahu on Sunday accepted a proposal put forth by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) that acting head of the National Security Council Brigadier General (ret.) Yaakov Nagel, or his deputy, temporarily act as a military attaché to the cabinet.
In a memo sent out to his faction’s members on Sunday, Bennett said he had accepted the suggestion, but that the prime minister had rejected it. Netanyahu later changed course.
The temporary position would remain filled until a suggested committee formed by Netanyahu to find a more permanent solution has finished its work.
Bennett’s threat had caused the Knesset to postpone a plenum vote scheduled for Monday to approve Liberman’s appointment. The vote has now been reinstated.
A Jewish Home vote against Netanyahu’s pick for the sensitive defense post would have torpedoed the newly inked deal that saw Liberman’s five-member Yisrael Beytenu party join the Likud-led governing coalition, part of a months-long efforts by the prime minister to expand his wafer-thin Knesset majority.
The Likud had warned that a vote against Liberman’s appointment would have meant the immediate firing of Jewish Home’s three cabinet ministers — Education Minister Bennett, Shaked and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel — and likely the collapse of the coalition.
Netanyahu’s current 61-seat coalition needs Jewish Home’s eight votes to pass Liberman’s appointment in the 120-member Knesset.
Even with the five-seat Yisrael Beytenu on board, a coalition without Jewish Home would have shrunk to 58 seats, losing its parliamentary majority and possibly triggering new elections.
Netanyahu on Friday offered to establish a committee headed by former Israel National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror that would examine ways to reform the security cabinet.
Bennett’s demands were only the latest crisis for Netanyahu to result from his appointment of Liberman. The move led the sitting defense minister, Likud’s Moshe Ya’alon, to resign and issue a bitter critique of the government, warning that “extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud movement.”