Coalition holds union event to quell infighting as budget test looms

Coalition deputies gathered for a team-building event on Friday in hopes of setting aside differences after a week of particularly heated infighting as the government prepares to pass an annual budget next month.

Meeting with members of eight of the nine parties that make up his coalition at a warehouse in Modi’in, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took the opportunity to urge lawmakers to resolve their differences behind closed doors rather than air their grievances in the media, as it has. has been the case in recent weeks.

Only in the last week were leaked recordings of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked released, calling Foreign Minister Yair Lapid “superficial” and claiming he was making “diplomatic mistakes” to get Bennett to clean them up, while Defense Minister Benny Gantz was “even worse than Lapid.” . “

“I ask everyone … if there is an incident, go behind closed doors, fight a little, reconcile and move on, you don’t need an audience, Ayelet and Yair,” Bennett said Friday, directing his comments to Lapid and Shaked. .

The dispute also occurred within Bennett and Shaked’s seven-member Yamina party, where MK Abir Kara temporarily left the faction’s WhatsApp group after claiming it was “a party of idiots.”

The dispute centered on Kara’s argument during a Knesset hearing on Wednesday that fining businesses that are not accessible to people with disabilities was akin to “communism.” His colleague, Yamina MK Shirley Pinto, criticized his comment on Twitter, calling it “cheap populism.”

That same day there were back-and-forth statements between the center-left Labor Party and the centrist Blue and White parties about Gantz’s decision to blacklist six Palestinian human rights organizations, in addition to promoting plans for approximately 3,000 households. of settlements, measures that provoked international protests.

After the head of the Labor Party, Merav Michaeli, criticized the lack of coordination of the movements, Blue and White responded that she should not get involved in security matters, in a comment that was criticized as chauvinistic.

Yet at Friday’s meeting, the coalition members were all smiles as they sought to put their differences behind.

Shaked was seen embracing Gantz and Lapid with the Hebrew media reporting that she apologized to each of them for the leaked recording. In comments that were also leaked to the press, Shaked explained that she had made the comments after thinking that Lapid had been responsible for a large number of negative reports about her.

The unlikely courtesy that brought the coalition together despite wide ideological differences to replace former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June has taken a hit in recent weeks as the deadline for passing a new budget approaches.

Passing a budget will be the most critical test the coalition has ever faced, and succeeding in doing so will likely mean stabilizing the government for the foreseeable future. If a budget is not approved by November 14, early elections will be called.

“This team-building event catches us at a particularly noisy moment. Timing [of this background noise] It was predictable, but first of all, I want to put things in proportion: in every coalition there is noise, ”said Bennett.

“We have critical days ahead. The other side has a task: to prevent us from approving a budget, “he added. “In this mission of theirs, all media is kosher: no exercise will be attempted with us, no false story will be told, no twist will be broadcast.”

Lapid told the group that he would not allow his dispute with Shaked to distract him from the goal of passing a budget and continuing to operate on behalf of the Israeli people. “The fights, leaks and recordings do not interest us now,” he told reporters.

A majority of the coalition was present at Friday’s event, which included a performance by comedian Adir Miller, who poked fun at some of the coalition’s mistakes thus far.

Members of the Islamist Ra’am party were not present, attending a government ceremony to mark the 45th anniversary of the Kafr Qasim massacre in which border police brutally killed 48 Arab men, women with children, for violating a touch of remains in wartime in 1956.

Miller joked that Ra’am’s boss, Mansour Abbas, was serving as a government-designated survivor.

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