Netanyahu fires Lapid, Livni from ministerial posts

PM says he won’t tolerate presence of cabinet members who ‘attack government policies’; Yesh Atid party: Sacking minister ‘is an act of cowardice and loss of control’

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (left) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (right) in the Knesset, July 31, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (left) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (right) in the Knesset, July 31, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday fired Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, amid the imminent breakup of the coalition and dissolution of the Knesset ahead of new elections.

“In recent weeks, ministers Lapid and Livni attacked harshly the government I head,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I will no longer tolerate an opposition within the government. I will not tolerate ministers who, from within the government, attack government policies and the person who leads the government,” he added.

The Yesh Atid party responded to Lapid’s dismissal, saying that Netanyahu’s “haphazard move of firing the ministers is an act of cowardice and loss of control.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed in his management of the country and in dealing with the needs of the Israeli public,” the party said in a statement. “We are sad to see that the prime minister has chosen to act without consideration for the national interest and to drag Israel to unnecessary elections which will harm the economy and Israeli society, all for narrow political interests and a surrender to the ultra-orthodox parties, the powerful central committee of the Likud and outside lobby groups.”

It added that the remaining Yesh Atid ministers would tender their resignations.

Livni and Netanyahu met earlier on Tuesday. At the end of their meeting, Livni remarked that “already yesterday at midnight it was clear that we’re going to elections.” Sources close to Livni told Army Radio that the reason she was fired was her support for a bill which would curb Israeli daily Israel Hayom’s free distribution.

“Netanyahu and I came from the same political home, but each of us took it in a different direction,” said Livni, who served as an MK and minister in Likud governments before joining Kadima and then establishing Hatnua.

“I believe that I represent the same values that [Likud party founder Menachem] Begin represented, and certainly [Revisionist Zionist leader Zeev] Jabotinsky — values of national Zionism in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence,” she said. “Unfortunately, [Likud MKs Ze’ev] Elkin and [Danny] Danon took control of the party that was once Zionist and moral, and the combination with [Jewish Home party leader Naftali] Bennett made [its] policies unacceptable for me, too.”

The move came a day after Netanyahu issued a series of demands to Lapid for the continuation of the government coalition agreement, which the Yesh Atid party leader rejected.

Netanyahu and Lapid met Monday evening following weeks of tension between the leaders of the Knesset’s two largest parties. The prime minister demanded Lapid cease his criticism of the government, transfer NIS 6 billion to the defense budget, release funds needed by the IDF to relocate to the south, back the prime minister’s controversial “Jewish state” legislation, and spike his affordable housing plan, or else risk a breakup of the governing coalition. Lapid refused.

Netanyahu is set to make a televised address at 8:10 p.m. on Tuesday following the announcement of Livni and Lapid’s dismissals.

Elections would likely be held in March 2015 if, as expected, Knesset members vote in the next few days to dissolve parliament.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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