The developments in Israel’s internal political drama have reached a new high today, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has essentially set in motion the end of the current government and paved the road for elections in 2015:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Tuesday to fire Yesh Atid leader Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Hatnua leader Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Netanyahu instructed Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday evening to issue termination letters to the two senior ministers, citing constant criticism aimed at him and his government from both Livni and Lapid.
“In recent weeks, including the last 24 hours, Ministers Lapid and Livni harshly attacked the government I’m heading.
I won’t tolerate any more opposition within the government, I won’t tolerate ministers attacking from within the government the government’s policies and its leader,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu has just called for the Knesset’s dissolution as soon as possible “so that we can head to elections and get a clear mandate from the people to lead the country”.
Update: A motion to dismiss the Knesset has been scheduled for tomorrow (3/12), after which Israeli elections will officially be on their way.
A bit of commentary:
Netanyahu’s decision to fire the senior ministers is apparently unprecedented, and there hasn’t been a political eruption of this magnitude in Israel in many years, perhaps even decades.
Both Livni and Lapid are heads of political parties and partners in the Israeli government’s Coalition of parties. While Livni’s Hatnuah (The Movement) party is small, Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There’s a Future) party was voted the second largest political party in the 2013 elections, coming in second after Netanyahu’s Likud Beitenu party - a coalition between the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel is Our Home”) headed by Avigdor Liberman, a long-time partner of Netanyahu.
As it seems now, the firing of both senior ministers is seems to be nothing short of a death sentence for any cooperation between the previously reluctant political partners. Lapid’s centralist party joined with Netanyahu’s right-wing party after the 2013 elections, amid considerable complaints from voters who wanted Lapid to work with the Labor party (which refused to join a Netanyahu administration and remained in the Knesset opposition).
The recent turmoil has been the result of Netanyahu (and the Likud’s) opposition to several laws aimed at improving the conditions of the Israeli middle and low classes - the platform on which Lapid’s movement ran its entire election campaign. Despite an overall sense of dissatisfaction with Lapid, the majority of Israel’s population supports the efforts he’s proposed, especially one known as the ‘Zero VAT’ law, a housing bill aimed at making it easier for families to purchase houses and apartments (a major social issue in Israel, where real estates costs have risen nation-wide and construction opportunities have been insufficient). Netanyahu, it seems, wanted the popular proposal gutted - which based on surveys would have consigned Lapid’s entire party to an early grave in future elections.
If in fact the passing of the Zero VAT law has been culled due to this decision, it may end up resulting in public backlash directed at Netanyahu; This could spell trouble in coming elections, made considerably worse by the fact that the elections will may also feature the end of the Likud/Yisrael Beitenu coalition (which played a crucial role in Netanyahu’s 2013 victory).