Israel’s Fragile Coalition Tries to Regroup Ahead of Key Vote

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks to ministers Lapid and Gantz, after a recording of Shaked disparaging them was aired earlier this week

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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PM Bennett and ministers Lapid and Shaked at the coalition get-together, Friday.
PM Bennett and ministers Lapid and Shaked, Friday.
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Members of Israel’s coalition got together for a team-building event on Friday, after tensions erupted last week over several issues and ahead of the crucial vote on the state budget. 

“We have a few critical days ahead of us,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the event, referring to the lead-up to Monday's vote. "The opposition has one mission: to prevent us from passing the budget."

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If the budget does not pass, the government will collapse, and Israel will hold a snap election within 90 days. The Knesset is expected to vote to approve the budget, which passed an initial vote in September after two-and-a-half years without one.

In this mission of passing the budget and keeping the government afloat, Bennett said, all means are legitimate. "There's no trick they won't try to pull on us," he said of the opposition. "There's no fake [news] they won't tell. There's no media spin they won't publish." However, he added, "This isn't about the other side, the story is how we approach it, what we project to the public.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked was seen talking with both Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the event, held in Modi'in, days after Channel 12 News aired an audio recording of her castigating the two. 

Yair Lapid and Ayelet Shaked at the colaition event

In the recording aired on Wednesday, Shaked was heard calling Lapid “superficial” and accused him of wreaking havoc from which Bennett has to rescue him, and disparaged Gantz as "worse than Lapid."  

"We've heard a lot of chatter in recent days, trying to create a commotion within the coalition right before the budget vote. It doesn't move us," Lapid said at Friday's event. "Everything is fine. The budget will pass. The stupid bickering and recordings are not what interests us now.”

Following the report, Shaked met with Lapid and corresponded with Gantz, explaining that she had made the remarks after her return from the United Arab Emirates two weeks ago, in response to briefings in the media that she perceived as a personal attack against her. At the time, she said, Shaked blamed Lapid for these briefings, and attacked him in a private conversation. 

In their conversation, Lapid told Shaked that statements made in private do not hold much importance for him, and thanked her for clarifying. He noted that the dispute is behind them, a sentiment echoed in a statement from Gantz's bureau after he returned from an overseas work visit. 

Naftali Bennett and Benny Gantz at the colaition event

Bennett mentioned the matter on Friday, saying that arguments should not happen in front of a third party, "whether it's the prime minister or the media. If there's an issue, get in a room together, fight for a bit, make up and move forward – no audience necessary, Ayelet and Yair." 

Most coalition members attended the event, except for the chairman of Meretz, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who was abroad. The entire United Arab List delegation was absent due to a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the massacre in Kafr Qasem. New Hope’s leader, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, was also absent.

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