‘Calm down’: Smotrich rebukes coalition partners for public squabbles

The Religious Zionism party leader tried easing tensions, likely to prevent the government from collapsing.


Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on his coalition partners to tone down the rhetoric after some of them publicly criticized policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who leads the right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, which ran on a joint list for the Knesset with Smotrich’s Religious Zionism Party, complained that the government did not make a strong enough response to Tuesday’s launching of more than 100 rockets at Israel by terrorists based in Gaza. Furthermore, the party boycotted voting in the Knesset.

“Following the weak response in Gaza tonight, the Otzma Yehudit faction decided not to attend the Knesset votes today and will hold a special faction meeting in the city of Sderot,” Ben-Gvir stated.

Hours later, the Likud issued a statement condemning the boycott and inviting Otzma Yehudit to bolt the government if dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s leadership.

Tensions increased, with Ben-Gvir responding, “Mr. Prime Minister, if you don’t want Otzma Yehudit in your government, you are welcome to fire us. If you don’t want a fully right-wing government, you are welcome to send us home.”

Also on Wednesday, ultra-orthodox leaders criticized Netanyahu for not pushing through a new law making military deferments for yeshiva students permanent.

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“My friends and partners in the government and coalition, let’s calm down,” Smotrich said.

“Internal discussions and debates can and should be conducted, and there is definitely a lot to improve,” he continued.

“But we must keep the government united and not give a reward to terrorism and bring the left with the supporters of terrorism to power. We have four years to fix and improve by working hard and together.”

World Israel News contributed to this report.