Israeli president lashes out at govt, talk of election

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Jerusalem:  Israel’s largely ceremonial president lashed out Thursday at squabbling members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called unity government, beseeching them to quit bickering during a time of national emergency and stop floating the prospect of yet another “terrible” election campaign.

Reuven Rivlin’s tweet comes amid a wave of angry protests against Netanyahu for his perceived mismanagement of the country’s deepening public health and economic crisis. After initially bringing the coronavirus under control, Israel is now suffering a peak of some 2,000 new cases a day while unemployment has soared above 20 per cent.

The government, established in May after three costly, divisive and ultimately inconclusive elections, was formed with the specific goal of countering the crisis.

Yet, it has been mostly characterized by internal fighting, contradictory policies and questionable legislation in the Knesset, or parliament — all under the shadow of Netanyahu’s own corruption trial.

“I look on the developments in the Knesset with deep concern as they shake the already fragile relations between coalition partners. As a citizen and on behalf of us all, I say: get a grip!”

Rivlin wrote. “Stop the talk of early elections, of that terrible option at this time, and save yourselves from it. The State of Israel is not a rag doll you drag around as you squabble. The people need you all to be focused, clear and finding solutions to this crisis.”

Rivlin appeal came a day after parliament passed a controversial bill to grant the government sweeping authority to bypass the legislature in enacting measures to combat the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Netanyahu’s main partner, the centrist Blue and White party, also broke ranks with coalition discipline to pass a pro-gay rights bill that outraged the ultra-Orthodox members of the government.

Coalition whip Miki Zohar, a close Netanyahu proxy, warned that the government could not survive much longer like this.

“It’s time to make a decision: either pass a budget, have a stable government and a functioning coalition or go to elections,” he said.

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