Israeli PM in spat with hardline foreign minister

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is battling to control his coalition as he heads for a showdown with his hardline foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Mr Lieberman, leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, has complained bitterly that his party has been sidelined in decision-making and blocked over key legislation. He is now on a collision course with the Prime Minister over a Jewish conversion bill that Mr Netanyahu says could tear the Jewish people apart.

The public spat underscores the fragility of Mr Netanyahu's right-wing ruling coalition, a collection of unlikely bedfellows each with the individual power to bring the government down.

While the foreign minister averted a domestic crisis this time by pledging to stay in the coalition, Israeli commentators suggest it is only a matter of time before Mr Lieberman either walks out or the Prime Minister is forced to forsake him and build a new coalition.

"We won't quit the government, but we also have no intention of surrendering," Mr Lieberman said at a press conference yesterday where he aired grievances over the budget and legislative issues. Mr Netanyahu was to meet with Mr Lieberman late yesterday at the Prime Minister's Jerusalem residence in an effort to patch up their differences.

"The Prime Minister sees Yisrael Beiteinu as an important part of his coalition, and he wants them to stay in," said an adviser to Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Lieberman demonstrated his anger when he flew to Kazakhstan last week, boycotting a night-long budget meeting where members of his party voted against the budget and harangued the Prime Minister for failing to allocate sufficient resources to the five ministries it controls. In an incendiary move, Mr Lieberman also appointed a relative unknown as the new acting ambassador to the United Nations, an appointment that requires prime ministerial approval.

The spat first erupted into the public domain several weeks ago when Mr Lieberman learned from press reports that Mr Netanyahu had sent an emissary to Brussels to hold clandestine talks with the Turks to try to heal a rift between the two countries.

Mr Lieberman, a Moldovan-born former nightclub bouncer who once called for Palestinian prisoners to be thrown into the sea, has ostracised many of his foreign counterparts, forcing Mr Netanyahu to sideline him for sensitive missions.

Now Mr Lieberman is pursuing a Jewish conversion bill that Israeli newspapers, citing political insiders, say would amount to an "act of war" with the Prime Minister.

The proposed bill, which has so far garnered little support in the Knesset, would effectively allow a handful of Orthodox rabbis to decide who is, and who is not, Jewish. The proposal has created a storm of anger among the Jewish diaspora, who fear it would create a divide among the Jewish people and throw into question their identity.

Mr Netanyahu responded with a stern riposte. "Efforts should be made to have this bill consensually taken off the agenda, but if it fails to be taken off, I will seek to have Likud [the ruling party] members and other coalition partners oppose it," he said. Israeli media reports suggested that Mr Netanyahu could give ground over the budget in return for Mr Lieberman's agreement to drop the conversion bill, which is unlikely in any case to be advanced ahead of the approaching summer recess.

If a clash is avoided over the conversion bill, Mr Netanyahu will face an even tougher test if he tries to extend a building freeze in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which is set to end in September. Mr Lieberman has delighted right-wing voters by vowing to start building as soon as the Washington-backed freeze expires.

It could be just the opportunity Mr Lieberman seeks to quit the coalition. "When he leaves, he will do so at the time of his choosing, over a ... national matter that is tearing the people apart," wrote Sima Kadmon in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
Pistorius leaves Pretoria High Court to be taken to prison
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems and Network Administrator

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: We are recruiting for a Systems and ...

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album