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Shas party trades insults with Ben Gvir after his failed power play shakes gov’t coalition

Shas: Ben Gvir is an ‘inflated balloon’

MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks with MK Aryeh Deri during a vote for the new Knesset speaker at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2022 (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).

Just two weeks before the end of the current Knesset session, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is being rocked by internal squabbles once again, after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir torpedoed a Knesset vote on Monday.

The coalition had planned to bring to the vote a watered-down version of the “Rabbis law,” which is being advanced by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and whose rejection had already caused serious cracks in the coalition.

The original bill was intended to regulate the appointment of municipal rabbis and the connected funds but was dropped after several Likud party Knesset members and Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power party publicly declared they wouldn’t support it.

On Monday, Ben Gvir stressed he wouldn’t support the amended bill unless he was given a seat on the now-defunct War Cabinet.

Having repeatedly criticized the government for “winding down” the Gaza War and rejecting a hostage deal with Hamas, Ben Gvir has sought to gain more influence over the government’s war policy.

After Netanyahu rejected the offer and canceled a planned meeting with Ben Gvir, he accused the prime minister of running a “one-man” government that was “surrendering to terror on every front.”

When the bill was pulled for lack of support, the Shas MK demonstratively left the Knesset floor, with some MKs calling into question the stability of the government.

Shas and Jewish Power then began trading insults and accusations in public statements throughout Monday evening, with Netanyahu catching ricochets from both sides.

The two political parties alternated between either accusing him of running the government without regard for his coalition partners or not having sufficient control over them.

“Shas views very seriously the reckless conduct of Minister Ben Gvir, his systematic and blatant violation of the coalition’s commitment and voting against laws approved by the Ministers’ Committee. With this conduct, Ben Gvir once again rewarded the opposition, which jumps at every opportunity to overthrow the right-wing government.”

“Shas is deeply disappointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s lack of control over the coalition members. Shas will meet soon, consult with the rabbis and decide on the continuation of its path,” the party stated.

Later, Shas members called Ben Gvir “a bloated balloon with delusions of grandeur,” while Jewish Power responded by accusing Shas chairman, Aryeh Deri, of always having “adored the left" and advocating for "surrender and submission.”

“Deri has admired the left since [the Oslo Accords], from [Yitzhak] Rabin through [Shimon] Peres until [Benny] Gantz, and he is the main source pushing the prime minister to adopt a policy of compromise [with Hamas],” Shas stated, adding: “Even today Deri opposes the addition of Minister Ben Gvir to the war cabinet.”

A government official later spoke with Ynet News about Ben Gvir’s refusal to support the bill to regulate the appointment of municipal rabbis, saying he “wants entry into the limited cabinet in order to prevent a hostage deal, and is ready to topple the government for it.”

Another senior official said that Ben Gvir had in fact “made a decision to dissolve the Knesset, and he strives for that every time with a different excuse.”

On the other hand, Israeli media outlets reported repeatedly over the past weeks that the ultra-Orthodox parties’ frustration has been building as they feel like they can’t get any of their bills to be legislated in the Knesset, calling into question any reason to remain in Netanyahu's government.

With the Knesset session ending in two weeks for the summer, most analysts agree that the government will probably not fall before then, but its stability after it returns from the recess is questionable at best.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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