02/16/2011 02:41

Speculation points to Issacharoff, Sofer for possible UK envoy.

Israel Beiteinu officials decided Tuesday night to delay a vote on a controversial bill that had been expected to reignite the already tense relations between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman lashed out at Netanyahu at a Knesset press conference on Monday over appointments of ambassadors and the Likud’s failure to advance key Israel Beiteinu- sponsored legislation in the Knesset. He threatened that his party would advance its agenda independently and violate coalition discipline.

The first test of how Netanyahu and Lieberman would get along following the press conference was supposed to be a vote on Wednesday on a bill sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MKs Faina Kirschenbaum and Alex Miller that would have removed value-added taxes from water bills.

The Finance Ministry had protested that the bill would cost NIS 1.5 billion, but Israel Beiteinu had threatened to pass it with the support of the opposition. Following mediation between Netanyahu and Lieberman by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, Israel Beiteinu agreed to delay the vote by two weeks in a decision that will be formally made Wednesday morning.

“The bill is important, and we have advanced it in order to ease the burden on the population that has been paying an increasingly high water bill,” an Israel Beiteinu spokesman said. “But we have agreed to delay it by two weeks.”

Elkin said such an expensive bill could not have been advanced without coordinating it with the government.

He denied reports that he had considered excluding Israel Beiteinu from coalition discipline on the bill.

“Israel Beiteinu wants to advance their agenda, and that’s understandable, but it’s not always possible,” Elkin said. “We will try to go toward them without breaking the budget and without harming other coalition partners.”