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Open warfare erupts among coalition MKs

    The differences between the governing Israeli parties on key issues are beginning to create open tension.

    Two weeks ago, the friction was mainly between right-wing Habayit Hayehudi and centre-left Ha’tnuah over the peace talks with the Palestinians.

    In recent days, the unrest has spread and is now undermining the alliance between Habayit Hayehudi and centrist Yesh Atid.

    The main protagonist this time has been Science Minister Ya’acov Peri, of Yesh Atid, who forcefully criticised the plans of Housing Minister Uri Ariel, of Habayit Hayehudi, to build thousands of new homes in the West Bank settlements. The plans have since been put on hold by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Last week, Mr Peri, a former Shin Bet chief, accused Mr Ariel of preferring the settlements to “dealing with rising housing prices and the situation of young couples”.

    On Saturday, he went a step further, predicting that one of the parties will eventually leave the coalition. “On the issue of negotiations with the Palestinians, there is a chasm between us and Habayit Hayehudi,” he said. “Sooner or later this chasm will be on the government’s agenda and then one of the parties will have to leave the table.”

    There are also divisions over the new National Service law, with Yesh Atid demanding that criminal charges should be applied to yeshivah students who refuse to serve and Habayit Hayehudi opposing the move.

    There is growing unrest also within the coalition’s largest party, Likud, over the future of the party’s alliance with Yisrael Beiteinu. Mr Netanyahu is interested in uniting them formally to bolster his power in the Knesset. Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader, the newly reinstated Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is also in favour of the move as he sees himself becoming Likud leader after Mr Netanyahu. However, many Likud members believe that the tie-up cost them Knesset seats and ministerial positions.

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