Netanyahu Woos Top Labor Minister in Bid to Save Coalition

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer offered perks in hopes he won't carry out his threat to lead Labor out of the coalition.

Mazal Mualem
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Mazal Mualem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer a number of perks to prevent him from carrying out his threat to lead Labor out of the coalition.

Earlier this week, Ben-Eliezer threatened to quit the government in April unless the peace process is resumed.

Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer at a conference on Tuesday.Credit: Moti Milrod

On Tuesday, Netanyahu asked Ben-Eliezer to join him on his trip to Cairo today and invited him for the first time to join the debate at the prestigious Forum of Seven. In addition, Netanyahu agreed to Ben Eliezer's request to allow more than 5,000 Palestinian farming and construction laborers to work in Israel. Ben-Eliezer had made the request months ago, but until now it had been rejected by the prime minister and his close associates.

Political sources said Ben-Eliezer's threats of quitting the coalition made Netanyahu realize he could pay a heavy price for ignoring Labor's demands to resume the peace process.

Ben-Eliezer reportedly told Netanyahu personally how disappointed he was that the prime minister had failed to spearhead a breakthrough in the peace process. Ben-Eliezer said he had believed in the prime minister and played a vital role in setting up the coalition.

Ben-Eliezer was meant to join the Forum of Seven when it was formed, but that would have required Netanyahu to include his rival, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, in the forum as well, so both were left out. On Tuesday, both Shalom and Ben Eliezer were invited back.

Ben-Eliezer said allowing the Palestinians into Israel would improve relations.

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