New strains appeared in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition Sunday, when a Yesh Atid minister said his party would have to reconsider its position hours after Hatnua’s Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz resigned and slammed Netanyahu over the budget.
Science Minister Yaakov Peri told Army Radio that Netanyahu was “leaning increasingly to the right, apparently because of internal party considerations” — a reference to the prime minister’s imperative to bolster his standing within his Likud party. This shift, said Peri, means that the centrist Yesh Atid “may have to make a decision regarding staying in the government… Without a doubt, we will have to consider in the next few weeks where the wind is blowing, where things are headed.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has frequently criticized Netanyahu for his handling of the collapsed peace process with the Palestinians, warned about rising friction over right-wing calls for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, and on Sunday urged the government to take a more proactive role in calming tensions with the Israeli Arab sector, saying, “Ministers, members of the government, and Knesset members need to engage in putting out flames, not fanning them.”
Before resigning on Sunday over the government’s ostensible failure to adequately address economic inequalities, former Histadrut trade union chief Amir Peretz, the environmental protection minister, said in a weekend TV interview that “the time has come to start talking about alternatives to the prime minister.”
On Sunday, Labor opposition chief Isaac Herzog urged the whole Hatnua party, headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, to quit the coalition. Added former Labor leader MK Shelly Yachimovich: “This is the exact right act, especially on the eve of [the passage of] a terrible state budget, and in the face of the hopelessness on the diplomatic front.”
Along with the mounting criticism from the center-left of his coalition, Netanyahu is under growing pressure from the right, notably the 12-member right-wing-Orthodox Jewish Home party.
On Thursday, amid riots in East Jerusalem neighborhoods and after a series of terror attacks in the capital, Jewish Home’s leader Naftali Bennett sniped that the government had “no right to exist” if it could not ensure security in its capital. “A government that does not know how to regain deterrence and sovereignty and provide security for its citizens in their capital does not have a right to exist,” he said.
Unlike Yesh Atid, which is polling far lower than the 19 seats it won in the 2013 elections, surveys suggest Jewish Home has nothing to fear from new elections, with polls suggesting it would gain seats if the coalition collapsed and new elections were held.