Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a televised statement to the Israeli public on Tuesday following his moves toward new elections, saying that the current government had been forced on him – and that it was impossible to run a state this way.
Hours before his address, Netanyahu fired Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid from the cabinet, moving another step closer to government elections. Meanwhile, the Knesset is set to vote Wednesday at noon on dissolving itself.
"I turn to you, the citizens of Israel, this evening because under the current situation, from within the current government, it is impossible to lead a state. My responsibility as prime minister is to do that. To preserve security, to develop the economy, to lower the cost of living – to take care of you, the citizens of Israel."
"These are things that I did over the course of four straight years in the previous government. I believe that was one of the best and most stable governments in the history of Israel. It did not overlook any part of this nation," he added.
"I must tell you that in the current government, it has been much harder to do things for the good of the public. Although during Operation Protective Edge, I led the operation with the defense minister and the chief of staff – we acted with determination and consideration, and I was not put off by criticism or background noise. But this government has been much harder. It is hard to do other things related to the welfare and security of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu added.
"Unlike its predecessor, the current government, from the day of its inception, was a contrarian government," he said. "It was forced on me because the results of the election – a simple reason – meant that a ruling government under my leadership did not receive enough seats. Maybe because of other reasons, this government had friction and directional differences. It behaved under threats and ultimatums."
"Livni is the last to talk about responsibility," Netanyahu added, responding to the former justice minister's criticism of her dismissal. "In May of this year she met with Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) against the cabinet's decision later she added and said, while serving as justice minister: Netanyahu's boycott on Abu Mazen is foolish. Today, a little while ago, she attacked the government again. Livni and Lapid have one thing in common – they talk about new politics, but in practice they practice old politics."
"In recent weeks they have joined forces to lure the religious factions to oust an the prime minister while sitting in the government. By the way, these are the same ultra-Orthodox parties that Lapid frequently claims that he refuses to sit with them [in the government] the finance minister, who failed managing the economy, secretly joined forces with the justice minister against an incumbent prime minister – in one word, it's called a putsch. It is impossible to run a government in this state."
"This is not an easy thing to do, what I'm doing tonight," Netanyahu continued. "Frequent elections are not a good thing, but a government with no governability that includes ministers who are working against it from the inside, is much worse."
"Swift elections must be held, and a new, united and strong government must be formed. For that you need a large ruling party. Those of you who hear me now and want a prime minister from the left – can elect [their own] candidate; those who want a strong prime minister from the national camp – those from the center and from the right – I am asking you to elect the ruling party under my leadership in order to give me a real mandate to lead the people and the country."
Netanyahu: I will not tolerate opposition from within
Netanyahu earlier Tuesday instructed Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit to issue letters of dismissals to Livni and Lapid and released a statement accusing the two ministers of harshly criticizing his government, adding that he "will not tolerate an opposition from within the government."
At a meeting late Monday, Lapid ejected the conditions set by Netanyahu for keeping the present government in power, which included supporting the so-called Jewish nation-state bill, and freezing the zero VAT plan involving provision of inexpensive, new apartments for first-time home buyers. Lapid’s rejection of Netanyahu’s demands paves the way for Lapid and his Yesh Atid party to leave the ruling coalition – which in practice means early elections.
“Netanyahu is leading Israel into unnecessary elections. The prime minister has chosen to act irresponsibly with respect to the nation, and to put the needs of the Israeli public at the bottom of his agenda,” said a Yesh Atid statement, issued after the unsuccessful meeting. “Netanyahu prefers a deal he made with the Haredim on moving up the elections over the interests of all Israeli citizens.”
Livni slammed Netanyahu's dismissal of her as a move aimed at removing the "gatekeeper of Israeli democracy."
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