Likud, Meretz Lawmakers Back Bennett's Demands to Reform Security Cabinet

The leader of the Habayit Hayehudi party threatens to vote against Avigdor Lieberman's appointment as defense minister if he demands are not met.

Emil Salman

Knesset members sounded off over the weekend in support of Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett's demand that the security cabinet be reformed in an effort to provide panel members broader information prior to making decisions on military matters. The support came from some unexpected places.

Education Minister Bennett made the demand in the form of an ultimatum to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as Netanyahu brings Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party into the government coalition and seeks to appoint Lieberman as defense minister. Lieberman's appointment is scheduled for a Knesset vote on Monday, but so far Bennett has not been mollified and is threatening to have his party vote against the appointment if his demand is not met. That could result in 62 votes against Lieberman's installation as defense minister and just 58 in favor.

Zehava Galon, who heads the left-wing Meretz party, expressed support for him over the weekend. "I support a change in security cabinet rules as proposed by the education minister, Naftali Bennett, and call on him not to compromise," a press release on her behalf stated. "Israel's security is more important than any political deal. On this subject, Bennett and I are of the same opinion that everything needs to be done to prevent the next security failure."

For his part, Knesset member Ayoub Kara of Netanayahu's Likud party told an audience in Be'er Sheva on Saturday that Lieberman will not be a good defense minister and lacks battle experience, but he, Kara, added that he understood the need for the appointment for political reasons.

Netanyahu's current coalition holds the thinnest of majorities, 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament, so the addition of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu would broaden that margin.

Kara's fellow, Likud MK Oren Hazan, said on Saturday that Bennett's demand regarding the security cabinet is well-taken. "The security cabinet has huge responsibility for our security," he said. He accused outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon of withholding information from the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, on which Hazan sits, and said it would be very serious if the security cabinet were "to make decisions without full control of the intelligence and operational material." 

Netanyahu appointed a team Friday to review current procedures concerning the sharing of information with the security cabinet, but Bennett, the education minister, has rejected Netanyahu's compromise, calling it one-sided and meaningless. "No spin from the prime minister will save lives and definitely not another thoughtless commission as he's prone to create from time to time," Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi party said in a statement.