Amid the calls in United Torah Judaism to prevent early elections through the replacement of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, MK Ofir Akunis on Monday blasted UTJ chairman MK Moshe Gafni.
"No one, not Gafni, not [Avigdor] Liberman, not Merav Michaeli and not [Nitzan] Horowitz will decide who will lead the Likud, only the members of the Likud will decide," Akunis said in an interview with the haredi radio station Kol Barama.
Akunis hinted at the policies of other parties, where party members do not decide the make-up of the Knesset slates.
"In the Likud, the rabbis do not decide, nor does [Yair] Lapid or Liberman or [Gideon] Sa'ar. If they do not want Netanyahu - they should go to the current government where the Health Minister calls for the bringing of chametz into hospitals [during Passover]. Go now, go," he said.
He further claimed that the Likud paid “prices that were not simple” in order to align itself with the haredim’s position on matters of religion and state. "I want to see even one of them going with [Benny] Gantz. Who made the Supermarkets Law? These are laws for which we in the Likud paid not simple prices in the liberal strongholds and compromised for the benefit of the coalition. [The haredim’s behavior] is impudence and insolence, this is not a partnership," he charged.
Akunis’ comments follow statements by senior UTJ officials in recent days, who said that they would rather form an alternative government in the current Knesset, even if it is not headed by Netanyahu, than go to elections.
MK Yitzhak Pindrus spoke to Radio 103FM about the issue on Monday and said, "The right thing for the State of Israel is to have another government in this Knesset, there is a Knesset here with 70 right-wing Knesset members, so there is no reason why we should not do it, and we should remove all personal issues and form such a government. That is the ambition. Will that happen? Chances are we'll go to elections."
He added that there is also no doubt at all who should be the Prime Minister in the next government.
"Ultimately, Bibi has a party with 30 seats within this bloc of 70 MKs," Pindrus said, adding, "We need to remove the personal issues and try to get a government, I think that's what Gafni has been clearly saying, based on my conversations with him. That's what UTJ thinks and that is what I believe the entire right-wing bloc thinks."
On the possibility that UTJ will be partners in a government led by the Likud, but not under Netanyahu, he said, "It does not depend on me. It depends on the Likud Central Committee and it depends on the Likud and Netanyahu, so the one who decides who heads the Likud, at this stage, is ultimately Netanyahu."