Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett reportedly threatened to break up the ruling coalition during a heated quarrel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting Sunday.
The spat was over legislation, dubbed the Ariel University bill, that would require Israeli universities in the West Bank to be granted the same academic standing as other higher education institutions, Hadashot news reported.
Bennett, whose pro-settlement party proposed the legislation, warned Netanyahu that he might leave his coalition if the legislation was not advanced, according to Hadashot news, and later stormed out of the weekly meeting.
“Why are you working this way?” Netanyahu asked Bennett. “It damages discipline within the coalition!”
“This is not how things work, this is unacceptable,” Netanyahu added. “If you want to quit, then just quit.”
Bennett responded by defending his party to the prime minister, saying Jewish Home MKs were among the best behaved lawmakers who rarely missed plenum votes.
The legislation backed by Bennett would place Ariel University under the same auspices as other universities and allow it to open a medical school. While recognized as a full university in Israel, Ariel’s location over the Green Line means it has a different standing than the country’s other schools.
Bennett said it was a shame that Netanyahu’s coalition had not put the same effort into passing the Ariel University bill as it did the so-called police recommendations law, which prevents police from commenting on whether there is an evidentiary basis for indictment in probes of public officials and other high-profile cases, and the so-called “French Law,” granting serving prime ministers immunity from corruption investigations.
Netanyahu and Bennett have often sparred in the cabinet and the two reportedly have a long-standing personal feud, according to Hadashot.
Bennett served as chief of staff to Netanyahu when the latter was opposition leader from 2006 to 2008.
In November, the prime minister and education minister clashed over the government’s settlement policy, leading Netanyahu to blast the Jewish Home leader as, “completely childish and lacking responsibility.”