Israel’s parliament debated a bill to
dissolve itself that’ll be put to a final vote today, as
electioneering intensified ahead of the March 17 ballot for a
Opposition lawmakers accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of playing politics with national security after Syria
accused Israel of carrying out airstrikes against it. Netanyahu
proposed lower taxes on food, and two ministers he fired last
week will meet to discuss a possible alliance between their
Netanyahu called early elections last week after dismissing
Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni,
with whom he had clashed over the budget, negotiations with the
Palestinians and proposals to anchor Israel’s Jewish status in
law. He decided to disband his bickering coalition less than
midway through its four-year term as Israel struggles with a
slowing economy, escalating Palestinian violence after the April
collapse of U.S.-backed peace talks, and an increasingly
unstable Middle East.
Netanyahu critics including Yifat Kariv, a lawmaker from
Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, echoed Syria’s allegation that Israel
struck Syrian targets in part as a means of “diverting
attention from the collapse of the Israeli coalition
government.” Netanyahu “can’t put together an alternative
coalition, so he decided to choose the path of terror and fear-mongering to set the Middle East ablaze,” Kariv said in an e-mailed statement.
Affront to Intelligence
Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied
involvement in the attack, while reiterating a policy of taking
action to prevent Syrian arms shipments to Hezbollah militia
allies in Lebanon. Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister
Yuval Steinitz accused Yesh Atid of “playing around with our
national security,” telling Israel Radio that any claim the
government’s military decisions are influenced by politics “is
an insult to the intelligence.”
Lapid and Livni were to confer today in parliament as
Netanyahu’s rivals weigh forming a joint bloc to oppose his
Likud, a Yesh Atid official said, speaking anonymously because
he wasn’t authorized to comment on record. Livni and Labor party
leader Isaac Herzog have voiced support for a united election
list of parties that would be more supportive than Likud of
making concessions to make peace with the Palestinians.
Labor and the dovish Meretz party signed an agreement today
that enables either party to transfer votes to the other if it
doesn’t meet the electoral threshold to gain a seat in
parliament. The Yisrael Beitenu party, led by former Foreign
Minister Avigdor Liberman, signed a similar pact with the as-yet
unnamed party led by former Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Several polls published last week showed that while the
prime minister’s approval ratings were down, he probably would
be able to form a new coalition government in line with his more
hardline stand toward the Palestinians. Yesterday, U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. will seek to revive
negotiations after the Israeli election.
Netanyahu today attacked his opponents’ economic policies,
telling a Tel Aviv business conference that Lapid’s proposal to
eliminate the 18 percent value-added tax on home purchases for
some Israelis would have ended up raising housing prices
“Instead of zero VAT on apartments, I promise a law that
will eliminate VAT on price-controlled basic foods and double
the grants to discharged soldiers,” the prime minister said.
Such programs would require legislation.
“Netanyahu promises us candy that we don’t get and tells
us that enemies are coming and only he can save us,” Lapid
said, speaking at the same conference after the prime minister.
“But we’re not 4-year-olds. We’re adults and we deserve to be
treated with respect.”
He also reiterated his call for a regional process with the
Arab League “to separate from the Palestinians.”
“If we don’t do this, our security and economy will be
hurt and the whole Zionist idea is in danger,” Lapid said.
Herzog said if elected to head the next government, he
would lower the cost of living within six months. “You can’t
create optimism in the economy when the prime minister is
managing an unrelenting campaign of fear,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Alaa Shahine at
Amy Teibel, Jana Randow