Yishai Plays Coalition Crisis Card in Support of Tent Protests

Interior Minister tells local council heads at Yokneam conference that he is 'ready to rattle the coalition in order to resolve social hardships'; says he plans to promote bill allowing ocal council heads to run for Knesset and keep council jobs.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai warned yesterday that his Shas faction was ready to undermine the integrity of the coalition if the government did not offer appropriate solutions to the tent protest. "I am ready to rattle the coalition in order to resolve the social hardships," Yishai said at a conference of local council heads in Yokneam.

The interior minister told the local council leaders that he intended to promote a bill that would allow local council heads to run for Knesset and hold their jobs at the same time. This, Yishai said to the council leaders, would allow them to fight for funding for their communities against the various Knesset committees in a more effective way.

Eli Yishai
Moti Milrod

Yishai's current coalition-crisis threat is not his first on the backdrop of the housing protest. Several weeks ago, he stressed that if the government did not find appropriate solutions to the housing problem, the ultra-Orthodox party he headed would pull out of the coalition.

Meanwhile, a local government source yesterday criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to include an Arab representative on the Trajtenberg Committee, which has been tasked with finding solutions to ease the economic pressure on the middle class.

"The fact that no Arab minority representative was included in the Trajtenberg Committee may have serious implications," the source said. "Almost one million Israeli citizens experience serious housing problems. In the Arab sector, unemployment and housing are major problems. It is a ticking bomb. If the protest in the Arab sector breaks out, it will not end with a demonstration of only 300,000 people."

For his part, Labor MK Amir Peretz welcomed the statements made yesterday by Yishai. "I hope to meet soon with Eli Yishai," Peretz said. "The time has come for the earth to shake and for the government to shake also. We will begin talks between our factions and reach an agreement on early elections. Netanyahu will not change his capitalist faith, and in order to change the social reality, there is a need to change the government."

Contrary to the combative statements of Yishai, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent out unequivocal messages on various aspects of government policy yesterday.

"When I look at the protest and what is happening in London, I see an island of stability here," Lieberman said in an interview with Israel Radio. "We are a stable democracy. There is a lot to fix in our society, too, but overall there are things here that make us proud."

Nevertheless, Lieberman said that "the protest of 300,000 people is very real."