Israel's Finance Minister Blocks Formation of Minority Government

After coalition talks between Netanyahu and Lieberman hit a dead end, Moshe Kahlon says a government that doesn't have a majority would be pointless

Moshe Kahlon at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Kulanu Chairman Moshe Kahlon blocked support by the country’s political parties for a minority government on Thursday.

Speaking at a meeting of party heads, convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after coalition talks with Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman hit a brick wall, Kahlon said that a government based on just 60 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers was pointless and not worth the time spent trying to make it happen.

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Kahlon argued that a government and a coalition without a majority would be short-lived. He reiterated his refusal, reported by Haaretz nearly two weeks ago, to continue serving as finance minister in a government that would be vulnerable to extortion as a result of its fragility.

When asked during Thursday’s meeting what the alternative might be, Kahlon said there was none; all that could be done was to make use of all the time remaining until the Wednesday deadline to form a new government, in the hopes of reaching a compromise.

As reported in Haaretz May 16, Kahlon said he would not be made responsible for defending the public purse from the demands of the parties in a narrow government. He also reiterated that he would sign a coalition agreement only after seeing all the financial promises made to all the coalition partners, and only after reaching an agreement with Netanyahu over the allocations.

After the breakdown in talks between Netanyahu and Lieberman, Likud issued a statement on Thursday attacking the Yisrael Beiteinu leader. “Lieberman promised his voters that he’d support establishing a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu. Now, he’s using all kinds of excuses to prevent this government’s establishment, which is liable to lead to the establishment of a left-wing government,” said Likud.

Lieberman responded, saying he would vote against a narrow government based on 60 Knesset members. In a statement, his Yisrael Beiteinu party said it had recommended to the president that Netanyahu be tapped to form the government, adding that its refusal to join the coalition now is based on the ultra-Orthodox parties’ opposition to the conscription law.

“All that’s needed to form a right-wing government is to demand that the Haredi parties withdraw their opposition to the conscription law, as agreed in the previous Knesset and as approved in a first vote in the Knesset, with the support of Likud and the other coalition partners,” Yisrael Beiteinu said in a statement.

“The moment the ultra-Orthodox parties put aside their objections to the conscription law, which goes against previous agreements, a new government will be established,” the statement went on to say.

“A 60-MK government isn’t a right-wing government; it’s a Haredi government that, instead of preserving Israel as a Jewish state, will turn it into a halakha state,” it said, referring to Jewish religious law. “Therefore, Yisrael Beiteinu will fiercely oppose a halakha government, a 60-MK government.”