Environment Minister Amir Peretz informed Justice Minister and Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday morning that he planned to resign from the cabinet within hours, a day after he threatened to do so over his disagreements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies.
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Livni told Peretz that she respected him and his decision, and that they would continue to work together within the party.
During the cabinet meeting on Sunday, Peretz asked for the floor and said: "During the first year, Tzipi Livni at least managed the negotiations with the Palestinians, and Israel's position strengthened. But now, there are no negotiations. The prime minister must calm the situation, take a wider look at the situation, through the eyes of the international community."
"Over the last few months, we have experienced an earthquake in every real – diplomatic, social and economic, and the prime minister, instead of navigating and finding solutions, is only looking to place blames," Peretz said. "The role of the prime minister is to rise above the criticism and political needs, and show responsibility for the citizens of Israel."
During the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu attacked Peretz and his leftist camp, telling the minister: "For you, it's if you didn't evacuate [a settlement], you didn't do anything. For you, the only initiative is to jump off a cliff and crumple. The role of a leader is to see reality, and unite the forces against it."
"We should not be in a situation where those who see a political solution as a central issue will be accused of crumpling in the face of terror," Peretz shot back. "I managed a firm war on terror, no less than you, against Hezbollah and Hamas, and I believed and advanced the political process as part of an overall outlook on Israel's security."
On Saturday, Peretz told Channel 2 television's "Meet the Press" that he planned to leave the coalition, but did not give an exact date of departure.
“I do not intend to remain in this government. Netanyahu isn’t the solution, he’s the problem,” Peretz said. “When everything around is burning, the prime minister sets the ground on fire instead of calming things down. At the ceremony in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, Netanyahu actually chose to fan the flames, but out of respect for the occasion I didn’t get up and walk out. I’ve done everything I can to advance the peace process and fight for the [ability] to live with dignity for Israeli citizens — for the elderly and poor children,” Peretz said.
“The deterioration is in every area — diplomatic, social and economic — and on Monday in the Knesset I won’t vote for the budget. I have no intention to continue serving Netanyahu’s policy, which has become captive to the right. Prime Minister Netanyahu has led us to despair — the time has come to usher in hope. He has missed all the opportunities he’s had and chosen to be captive and paralyzed by the extremists.”
The coalition whip, MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), responded with a threat to Peretz.
“Amir Peretz knows the rules of the political game very well. If he doesn’t want to be a cabinet member, it’s not hard to find the fax number of the Prime Minister’s Office to send a resignation letter,” Elkin said.
“I understand that for now what interests Amir Peretz is his political survival for the next term, and it seems he’s searching for a way in a different political framework. But the Israeli public is not stupid and knows how to distinguish between cheap populism and political survival maneuvers and a true ideological position.”