Late night meeting between Netanyahu, Kahlon, and Lieberman resolves dispute over pension reform, but Bennett challenges PM on appointing cabinet military secretary, threatening not to support Lieberman’s appointment if his demand is not met.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman signed a coalition agreement on Wednesday morning after understandings were reached overnight Tuesday on Lieberman’s conditions to join the government as defense minister.

Netanyahu, Lieberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met at the Prime Minister’s Office for over an hour late Tuesday night in an effort to resolve the disputed issues.

Yisrael Beytenu announced Wednesday morning that as part of the agreement, NIS 1.4 billion will be allocated to the party’s coveted pension reform over the course of four years. In addition, NIS 150 million will be allocated to public housing.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon - right to left (Photo: Gil Yohanan, Amit Shavi)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon – right to left (Photo: Gil Yohanan, Amit Shavi)


“We compromised on issues of religion and state and on death sentence to terrorists, but we will not compromise on two basic issues: the defense portfolio, and the pension reform,” Lieberman said at the Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting on Monday afternoon.

Finance Minister Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu party, spoke harshly against the budgetary demands of Yisrael Beytenu, saying that “Kulanu will not allow unruly behavior in any area – not economic, not political, not security. Kulanu will not allow the violation of the principle of equality. Everyone will receive this money – Arabs, Jews, immigrants and veterans. That is our agenda.”

But that was not the last fire left to put out. Education Minister Naftali Bennett demanded on Monday that the prime minister implement a plan that will address the cabinet’s mishandling of Operation Protective Edge and the Second Lebanon War. Until this plan is implemented, the Bayit Yehudi leader said he will not support changes made to the government, namely bringing Yisrael Beytenu into the coalition.

On Wednesday morning, Bayit Yehudi officials said the party will not concede on the demand to appoint a military secretary to the members of cabinet. “This is a demand written in blood, and we will not give it up,” one official said.

The appointment of Lieberman to defense minister and close ally Sofa Landver as immigration absorption minister requires the approval of both the Knesset and the government. Bennett has threatened to vote against the appointment if his conditions are not met.

“The prime minister’s insistence on carrying on compartmentalizing the security cabinet is hard to understand. We didn’t demand jobs or budgets. We demanded to save human lives. This insistence is so much more strange in light of the lessons learned from Operation Protective Edge that found this compartmentalization has made a one-week-long war into a 51-days war, with the cost that it entails,” a party official went on to say.

On Tuesday, Bennett elaborated on the reasoning behind his demand in a Facebook post. “In my eyes, the demand is an obvious one, and in general one the prime minister should’ve pushed for himself. Other cabinet members also believe so, but unfortunately I have to be the ‘responsible adult’ this time,” he wrote.

He went on to explain that “according to the law, the cabinet is the commander-in-chief of the IDF, not the prime minister or the defense minster. My concrete demand is to equip members of cabinet with intelligence and some tools so they could function better, and most importantly—with a military secretary.

“The cabinet military secretary will meet with the different cabinet members (ministers Shaked, Erdan, Deri, Katz and others, myself included) on a regular basis and brief them on what’s happening on each of our borders, what is the situation of the enemy, what acquisitions the IDF is making, and more. We could delve into any important topic with him.”

Officials in the ruling Likud party were not concerned by Bennett’s demand, with one saying “he could quit the government as far as we’re concerned.”

Minister Yariv Levin, who heads the coalition negotiations on behalf of the Likud, rejected Bennett’s demand out of hand. “We’re not renegotiating the coalition agreements with any of the partners, including Bayit Yehudi,” Levin said.

As reported by Ynetnews