Benjamin Netanyahu with Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin in the Knesset.
Benjamin Netanyahu with Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin in the Knesset, Tuesday May 8, 2012. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
Text size

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's surprise move to form a unity government with Kadima announced early on Tuesday morning has shocked Israeli politics, unleashing harsh criticism from opposition members, and praise from members of the Likud-led governing coalition.

President Shimon Peres praised the move, and said that "a national unity government is good for the people in Israel." A unity government will help Israel deal with the challenges it faces, he added.

"The crucial challenges facing Israel require a broad national unity," the president said.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said that "unity brings back stability. A broad national unity government is good for security, good for the economy, good for the nation of Israel."

Former leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni came out in criticism of the move on her Facebook page. "This morning I want say one sentence to each and every one of you. I know exactly what you are feeling right now after what happened last night – but remember that there is also another kind of politics, and that it will win," she wrote.

Israel Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich slammed the maneuver as "an alliance of cowards," and the most ridiculous zig-zag in Israel's political history, which no one will ever forget.

She also said that the move represented the end of Kadima, and, as such, a unique opportunity for the Israel Labor Party to lead the opposition.

In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Yacimovich said that she had been interested in elections, but that she is not scared of staying in the opposition. "It was right for us to go to elections now," she told Army Radio, "but I am building something for the long-run with no underhand compromises." She added that she did not believe that the Israeli public would buy whoever was behind this deal.

Yacimovich's fellow Labor member MK Yitzhak Herzog said after a faction meeting early on Tuesday that the party would lead the opposition in the face of the "alliance of cowards" that is now at the head of Israel's government.

"We will show the public that there is a political and ideological alternative," Herzog said.

Yair Lapid, the former TV anchorman who was set to stand for election with his recently launched party, Yesh Atid, crticized the move on his Facebook page on Tuesday. He described the formation of the unity government as "the old kind of politics" and as "corrupt and ugly."

"It is time to remove it from our lives," he wrote, adding, "This is politics of chairs instead of principles… of the interests of the group instead of the whole nation. They think that now they will continue for some time, and that we will forget, but they are mistaken. This disgusting political alliance will bury all those involved."

Meretz head Zahava Gal-On also expressed outrage over the surprise move, calling it a "mega-stinking maneuver by a prime minister who wants to avoid elections and a desperate opposition chairman facing a crash."

"This is a disgrace to the Israeli parliament and a terrible message to the public, which is losing faith in the leadership of the state," Gal-On added.

Members of Israel's ruling coalition praised the formation of a unity government.

Finance Minster Yuval Steinitz said he wished to congratulate Mofaz, and that Netanyahu's move "will be remembered for generations as a brilliant maneuver."

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, defended the maneuver and said in the faction meeting that, "there is a historical opportunity that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized and led."

Unity will ease decision-making even on the Iran issue, Erdan said.

The head of the Independence party Einat Wilf also praised the decision. "The Independence faction congratulates Kadima on joining the coalition, and on the responsibility it has shown with this move."

MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) said that the move started last week, and turned into an agreement on Tuesday night. He explained that his support, saying that the likelihood of establishing a right-wing coalition after elections in September would have been low, and emphasized that the deal does not change the basic principles of the government.

Meanwhile, a new Facebook group is calling for a massive rally later Tuesday, to protest the Netanyahu-Mofaz unity deal.

Called "The Entire People is the Opposition," the group denounces the two officials for meeting "live thieves in the night" to "steal our country."

"This government has to go. The fight for our life here begins today," the group added, calling for protesters to assemble in in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.