Israel's justice and interior ministers traded heated barbs on Monday, each accusing the other of selling out to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who hopes to stage a political comeback and win a sixth term in November’s election, despite being on trial for corruption.
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Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Army Radio that “everybody who votes for Ayelet Shaked knows that she will go with Netanyahu” and that even before the Knesset was dissolved, the interior minister had “strived to form a government headed by him.”
Shaked, a close ally of former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and a member of his Yamina party, replied that she always acted “responsibly towards my country” and that she will “do what is best for the country” based on the “cards available.”
“I just have a question: why have you been negotiating with Netanyahu’s people for several weeks, if it bothers you so much?” she said.
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Sa’ar countered by declaring that he had “refused the Netanyahu bloc’s proposal to serve as the first prime minister in rotation” after the previous election and that “even now I have received tempting offers, and refused.”
“Is there one person who believes you would stand such a test?” he asked.
Both politicians’ parties are teetering on the brink of the electoral threshold, according to a poll published Sunday by the Kan public broadcaster ahead of the November 1 election.
Yamina, led by Shaked after Bennett announced he would not seek reelection, as well as left-wing Meretz, Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party and the United Arab List all receive four seats in the Kan poll, putting them just above the 3.25-percent electoral threshold to ensure they make it to the next Knesset.
If the polling is accurate Netanyahu manages to bring even one of them over, he could return to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House Committee decided on Monday that the parliament will go on recess on Tuesday, only to reconvene after the next Knesset is sworn in.
An interim committee with representatives from both the ruling coalition and the opposition can approve votes on specific bills, mainly ones that regulate the election campaign or ones that had been tabled before the Knesset voted to dissolve itself last week.
Noa Shpigel contributed to this report.