Knesset Speaker Criticizes Netanyahu’s Rhetoric, Says He’d Be Glad to See Half of Fellow Likud Lawmakers Go Home

Israel Radio reports Yuli Edelstein also told prominent religious Zionists that Israel had 'won' with Trump’s Jerusalem announcement but faulted Netanyahu for not capitalizing on historic moment

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence signs guest book accompanied by wife Karen, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and his wife Irina during his visit to the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem January 22, 2018.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calling his opponents “sourpusses” and said he would be relieved to see half of his fellow Likud lawmakers go home, Israel Radio reported Sunday, citing a recordig of a meeting Edelestein had with prominent religious Zionist figures which included members of the media.

Edelstein was discussing recent speeches given by Netanyahu, referring to one where the prime minister called his opponents “sourpusses.”

This conduct is "a bit problematic when Netanyahu speaks as prime minister nobody interrupts him, there’s respect. But as soon as it comes to ‘you’re sourpusses’ – that’s where the mess begins. It’s a pity it’s like this,” Edelstein is reported to have told the group. 

Edelstein was also quoted as saying about his own Likud colleagues: “I think Likud has a serious problem. “I’d be very happy if half of the faction went home, and there are new candidates that I wouldn’t be happy seeing in the Knesset. If we go on like this, we’ll be in the opposition; if a different roster [of Knesset candidates] isn’t chosen we’ll be in the opposition.”

Edelstein, a longtime lawmaker who was once a prominent refusenik in the former Soviet Union took issue with Netanyahu on several other issues in his remarks, among them his handling of U.S. President Donald Trump’s historic announcement that the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. policy not to make a call on the city’s status until it was negotiatied as part of peace efforts with the Palestinians. 

“I argue, and this is something that I can’t say publicly, we won. Trump thumbs his nose at the system, letting him say what he said. That very evening we should have met, Israel’s president, the prime minister, the foreign minister that we don’t have [Netanyahu is the acting foreign minister] and the Knesset speaker,” he was reported to have said. “There’s been no basic groundwork because there’s no foreign minister and the prime minister doesn’t talk to the president, and the president doesn’t talk to the prime minister. If there had been better work, we could have moved forward, not only with Guatemala,” Edelstein said.

He was referring to Guatemala’s indication of its willingness to move its embassy to Jerusalem. 

Most countries criticized Trump’s announcement and reiterated that they think Jerusalem’s status should be determined in negotiations. Palestinians claim traditionally Arab east Jerusalem as the future capital.

Edelstein also disparaged Netanyahu comments on receiving “hot meal trays” in response to allegations that his residence overspent on private chefs. He also took issue with the prime minister's comments on the physical appearance of the journalist Moshe Nussbaum, after he had been critical of Netanyahu.