Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz early this afternoon, Tuesday, 16 Iyar 5772 held a joint press conference to formally announce the details of their coalition agreement.
The reporters asked the difficult questions, but the prime minister was at his best, using his oratory skills and years of experience in his responses. “They attacked me for running away from addressing the state budget and the need to revamp the Tal Law. Now that I reached agreement with Mofaz and Kadima, they are pointing an accusatory finger once again”.
Mofaz handled himself as the seasoned politician that he is as well, emphasizing “I did not come asking for a [cabinet] seat or any post, simply to advance the agenda”. It was important to him to make it clear, that the prime minister approached him last night, not the other way around.
Mofaz explained that while there is a national consensus there are a number of issues that have been stuck and they did not advance in the current Knesset as they should have. He listed the matter of “carrying the burden” and the fact that the Supreme Court has abolished the Tal Law and the time has come for all Israelis to serve. The second issue on his agenda is ushering in a new form of government, one that more closely resembles the form of government in the United States and lastly, “the need for significant territorial compromise” to reach a comprehensive agreement with the PA (Palestinian Authority).
The chareidi draft issue must be completed by the High Court’s deadline on August 1, 2012. He added that he was assured the matter of changing the form of government would be completed by year’s end.
Mofaz explained that once he came to the realization that the prime minister and his coalition share these very concerns, receiving a commitment that they will remain top priority on the coalition agenda, going to elections on 17 Elul would have been nothing short of irresponsible.
“There is a window of opportunity which we may not miss. I have always been a big supporter of government coalitions and I favored Kadima’s entry into the current coalition following the election in 2009. Not entering the government was a historic error and now we are correcting this error”. This was his way to placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of ousted party leader Tzipi Livni, who has since resigned from Knesset.
The two repeated the need to “place the nation before all political considerations” and avoiding national elections with all that entrails, including the expense, is indeed a national priority – both vowing not to become “sidetracked” by smaller issues, but the new coalition will address the points mentioned above all else.
Mofaz explained that if these issues are advanced as he believes they will, this alone will have justified Kadima’s entry into the coalition.
Mofaz was asked to comment on efforts to bypass the High Court’s demolition order for buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El, adding that Ministers Benny Begin and Dan Meridor object to efforts to circumvent the court’s decision with Knesset legislation. Mofaz stated “I believe in dina d’malchusa dina” and whatever solution is put forward within the framework of the law will be acceptable, signaling that if the Knesset can pass a law to undermine the court’s decision he will support the effort.
The prime minister added that people like himself “have matured” and they “weigh all the facts and then act within the framework of the law”.
He made a point of stating that immediately after being tapped to form a government he turned to Tzipi Livni to join but she declined. He asked a second time and she refused then as well he concluded, explaining “they all talk how divided the nation is, the chasm, but I maintain this is not true and that in essence, we are on the same page regarding all the main issues”.
Mr. Netanyahu added that he conferred with the heads of coalition factions on Monday night before moving ahead with the Mofaz/Kadima deal and received their blessing for eliminating the need for general elections.
The prime minister added that at some point it became clear that Kadima was supporting the initiative and he received the go ahead, realizing he succeeded in avoiding elections. For now, elections will be held on schedule, at the end of the current administration’s four-year term, in October 2013.
When asked about the incident in which he called the prime minister a “liar”, both Mofaz and the prime minister responded, concurring they put the matter behind them for the good of advancing the critical national agenda.
The media continued to pound away, focusing on diminishing Mofaz’s credibility for his shifting from Likud to Kadima, then ousting Livni and then entering a coalition with Netanyahu when he stated repeatedly that this was never an option. Ultimately, Mofaz continued repeating the mantra, that he and the prime minister did their utmost to place the national agenda ahead of all else, and the result is the government is now the largest strongest coalition in Knesset history, with 94 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
Mofaz explained “This is a historic step, not blackmail,” unfazed by the media assault. We are doing a “tikun olam” regarding the Tal Law and other major matters.
The prime minister stated “elections were never the first option, but a means to an end” and once it became obvious that he could avoid them, this was the ideal situation.
President Shimon Peres spoke with both leaders as well as releasing media statements showering them with praise and commending their actions, which has averted early national elections.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)