Zionist Union Lawmakers: Deposing Bennett Won't Bring Us Into Netanyahu's Coalition

'No one is going to fall off their feet by Netanyahu's peace comments,' says Itzik Shmuli, citing prime minister's lack of action on diplomatic front as the main barrier to joining the government.

Herzog and Bennett at a conference in Tel Aviv, 2015.
Ofer Vaknin

Zionist Union  Eitan Cabel said on Monday he believes that the chances of his party entering the coalition have diminished.

"I don’t know of negotiations and I hope there aren’t any. For me, there's no door, no window and no cracks, but a cement wall separating between us and the government," he told Haaretz.

Party leader Isaac Herzog on Saturday said that if Netanyahu were to part with the extremists in his government, there would be room to reconsider joining the coalition. Herzog conditioned such a step on Habayit Hayehudi leaving the coalition and his own faction agreeing to the move.

"The issue that prevented our entry [to the coalition] with far better terms than are available today hasn’t changed: Bibi only speaks of the two-state solution and doesn’t do anything to advance it," Cabel said, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Cabel said Netanyahu lacks "the courage and the ability to put it in the coalition agreement because he doesn’t have a majority to pass it in his party and in the coalition," adding that Netanyahu was "offering words, not action."

Fellow Zionist Union lawmaker Itzik Shmuli also clarified that the string of declarations by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on their support of the two-state solution and the assessments that these were meant to advance the peace process aren’t enough for his party. "No one is going to fall off their feet by Netanyahu's peace comments," he said.

"The public criticism of his latest moves is sky-high. Is that why he suddenly remembered the peace process? Everything will be judged by actions and not empty comments," he said. 

Shmuli did not rule out that the Zionist Union would support any diplomatic move toward peace from the opposition. "With all due respect to the prime minister, he earned this suspiciousness with his endless zigzagging." he added.

Other Zionist Union lawmakers marked the possible resignation of Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett from the government as a move that would enable the party to join the government. According to a party source, in recent days Herzog has openly worked toward bringing forward Bennett's resignation from the government for this reason.

"Herzog's public statements last Saturday were a desperate last attempt to exploit the crisis of confidence between Naftali Bennett and Netanyahu to bring to his resignation," the source said.

Bennett sharply attacked Netanyahu and Lieberman on Sunday night for their recent statements in favor of both a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab peace initiative.

"There are those, both in Israel and the world, who are signing up for various Arab peace initiatives, according to which Israel will be divided – God forbid, Jerusalem will be divided – and we'll return to the '67 lines," Bennett said during an address in Jerusalem.

"We can't be in favor of the land of Israel in Hebrew and establish a Palestinian state in English," he said.

In recent days, Netanyahu updated the heads of factions within the coalition on political contacts and on his public confrontation with Bennett.

"Netanyahu made clear that he would not give Bennett a second chance if he picked another confrontation with him," said a source familiar with the talks. "It is unclear what wins out at this point, Netanyahu's hatred of Bennett or his fear of Bennett heading to the opposition."