Likud Split on Netanyahu’s Plans to Oppose Coalition Bill on Scholarships for Soldiers

Sources in Likud criticized Netanyahu’s plan to oppose the bill, with a senior member of the party saying that the opposition leader 'is causing very serious damage to Likud'

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset on Tuesday.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset on Tuesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Several lawmakers from opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party plan to defy their leader and vote with the coalition to pass a bill funding academic studies for combat soldiers who have completed their compulsory military service.

Sources in the party criticized Netanyahu for intending to have the party oppose the legislation, in line with his efforts to torpedo bill after bill sponsored by the coalition.

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Likud lawmaker Yoav Gallant tweeted on Wednesday that he was in favor of the bill, writing: “I will continue to lead the efforts to persuade the members of the Likud caucus to unanimously support the bill.” His Likud colleague Patin Mula also tweeted his intention to vote for the bill, regardless of how the rest of the party votes. “I will support the bill and I will do all I can so the bill passes!” he tweeted.

Sources in Likud criticized Netanyahu’s plan to oppose the bill, with a senior member of the party saying that “Netanyahu is causing very serious damage to Likud in his decision to withhold scholarships from combat soldiers. The public suddenly understands that petty politics are being played at the expense of the soldiers. Every day that passes, the public damage caused to Likud every day is huge. Who would dare to play politics at solders’ expense? He’s dragging us all to new lows.”

Netanyahu, for his part, wants to hold another debate on the bill before it is brought to an initial vote in the Knesset on Monday. Members of the coalition believe Netanyahu and Likud have suffered a blow to their image thanks to his plans.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz discussed the bill with Netanyahu, tweeting afterward that he had “asked the head of the opposition to enlist in passing the bill for IDF combat soldiers,” adding: “I believe and hope that Likud and the opposition parties will understand the need [for the bill] and allow it bill to pass.”

However, Netanyahu claimed that he called Gantz and asked that the coalition support a bill advanced by Likud to increase the scholarships to 100 percent of fees (as opposed to two-thirds, as appears in the original bill). However, sources believe the purpose of this proposal is stopping passage of the coalition bill.

Netanyahu did not commit to any particular step in the conversation with Gantz, and both said no other issues came up.

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