(photo credit: REUTERS)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman decided to play the role of “responsible adult” inside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government Monday when he ruled out changes in the coalition in a speech to Yisrael Beytenu activists in Jerusalem.
Speaking following a day of mutual recriminations between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Liberman said that at a time when Israel is facing security and socioeconomic threats, changing the coalition was wrong.
“There is no way that we will accept changes [in the coalition],” he said. “We won’t allow these games, which change the coalition to a ‘goalitzia’ [a free-for-all]. The choices are the current coalition or new elections. There are no other possible changes.”
Liberman stressed that Israel did not need elections or the political horse trading that follows them. But he said that in future governments he did not have any problem coexisting in a coalition with any non-Arab party.
“I don’t disqualify anyone, especially not a Zionist party,” he said. “We can sit with secular and haredi parties on the Left and Right. But the government should be homogeneous and productive.”
Liberman’s comments came on a day when budget battles between Netanyahu and Lapid led each of them to flex their political muscles and show the other that they had alternatives.
Netanyahu met with United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Ya’acov Litzman at his official Jerusalem residence. Lapid sent Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri to talk to Meretz and Arab MKs and check whether they would support him replacing Labor leader Isaac Herzog as opposition leader if he left the coalition.
The Meretz and Arab MKs said no to Peri and Lapid, who angered Arab lawmakers last year when he referred to all of them in English as “the Zoabis.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the biggest or the central problem in the Middle East, Liberman told some 150 foreign diplomats earlier Monday at the Rosh Hashana reception hosted by the President Reuven Rivlin in his official residence in Jerusalem.
The foreign minister characterized the Israeli- Palestinian conflict as “a marginal problem” that he said is a way for Arab leaders to avoid their own domestic problems.
Liberman said that he does not see any linkage in the dispute between Israel and the Arab world and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and charged that its utilization is simply an attempt to avoid reality.
Moreover, he said that the conflict is not between Jews and Arabs or Israel and the Arab states but between radicals and moderates.
In reviewing the threats to Israel and to world stability, Liberman ranked Iran as “the biggest threat to the entire world” and warned that if Iran achieves nuclear capability “there will be a crazy nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
The threat of terrorism and the quest for peace also dominated the addresses of Rivlin and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Henri Etoundi Essomba, who is the ambassador of Cameroon.
Speaking of the human casualties in Operation Protective Edge, Essomba said that the diplomatic community grieves for victims on both sides.
The diplomatic community supports the move toward the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, he said, and lambasted the extremist ideology expressed by jihadists.
Relating to the changing face of warfare, Rivlin said that in recent decades war has been waged between countries and terrorist organizations.
“We all know that in war there are no winners” he said. “There is always harm and death. However, in war between a terror organization and a sovereign state, the terror organization is always in a win-win situation.”
Rivlin emphasized that Israel recognizes the importance of international law and strictly obeying warfare law.
But today, when the international legal system faces new challenges and a new type of war, it needs to provide a comprehensive and relevant judicial response to the new wars, he said.
Coming closer to home, Rivlin asked his guests to bring the message of Israel’s diversity to their home countries.