A month into coalition negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his potential partners in the next government are asking for too much.
“The factions are making impossible demands,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday at a memorial for Aaron Aaronsohn, the co-founder of the Nili spy ring for the British in World War I.
Netanyahu and the Likud have yet to sign a coalition agreement with any of the likely members of the next coalition. The final deadline to form a government is May 29.
“One faction asked for four ministerial portfolios – for every one of its MKs,” he added, apparently referring to Kulanu, which is the only potential coalition partner with four seats.
As for budgetary demands, Netanyahu said they would be “reasonable if we had the US’s budget. We don’t. We can’t destroy our state budget and our economy.”
Meanwhile, haredi MKs and Yisrael Beytenu continued to trade barbs via the media over their disagreements.
UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler said Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman is the main obstacle to forming a coalition.
“Liberman’s Russian constituents need to make a living, transportation and health services. Why does he need the residents of Bnei Brak and Bet Shemesh to enlist in the IDF?” Eichler asked in an interview with KAN Bet.
“Just as we don’t tell Liberman and his voters what to eat and what to do, he shouldn’t get involved in our lives. I call on him to wake up and not bring down a right-wing government.”
Liberman responded on Facebook that the haredi parties only want “to provoke and threaten.”
He also took issue with the accusation that he will prevent a right-wing government from being formed, saying that a national unity coalition – meaning between the Likud and Blue and White – would be a “national paralysis coalition,” and that he only supports Netanyahu to form the government.
“We want a right-wing government in action and not in words. Yisrael Beytenu represents the most neglected population group in Israel. A group that serves in the army, goes to reserve duty, works and pays taxes. We will not give up on our principles. Take us seriously, and whoever is looking for someone to blame if there’s no right-wing coalition should look at himself in the mirror,” Liberman said.
Also Wednesday, Netanyahu decided to support a bill granting immunity from criminal proceedings to elected officials, Channel 12 reported. This comes after several months of speculation that such a bill would be on the new government’s agenda and outspoken support from some in the Likud, as well as Union of Right-Wing Parties’ MK Bezalel Smotrich.
The much-discussed proposal has yet to be submitted to the new Knesset, but an October 2018 bill by Likud MK Miki Zohar sought to bring back the pre-2005 situation, by which all MKs are automatically immune from prosecution unless the Knesset votes to remove that immunity.
Currently, no MKs have immunity, but they can ask for the Knesset to grant it to him or her if they are indicted.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit recommended earlier this year that Netanyahu be indicted on three counts of fraud and breach of trust and one of bribery, pending a hearing set for September.
Netanyahu reportedly told sources in the Likud that “the citizens of Israel deserve a full-time prime minister. After I finish my job, I will deal with the court.”
“The citizens of Israel knew my situation, and they elected me. If I was thinking of what’s good for me personally, I would have the trial while I’m prime minister and not a private citizen, but I understand that it is not good for the country,” Netanyahu said, according to Channel 12.
Meretz successfully led the effort to get the 40 signatures necessary to call a Knesset meeting, which Netanyahu will be required to attend. The subject will be “legislation to destroy democracy,” referring to the immunity bill and the proposed “override clause” to allow the Knesset to re-pass laws struck down by the Supreme Court.
“Netanyahu is acting like the head of a criminal organization with a country in his pocket,” Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg warned, adding a reference to The Godfather: “Aside from putting a horse’s head in the attorney-general’s bed, Netanyahu has gone as far as possible.”
Labor MK Tal Rousso said that he hopes the report is not true: “No one is above the law, no matter what his job is. I know most of the members of the future coalition personally. They are wonderful and honest people. I do not believe that they would let such a thing happen.”