Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday said that while he was not "obsessed" with becoming prime minister, eventually leading the country was his ultimate goal.
Speaking in an interview with Channel 2, Liberman denied reports that he would become prime minister as part of a rotation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after the leaders announced Thursday that their respective parties, Yisrael Beytenu and Likud would be running on a joint list for the 19th Knesset.
"Clear and simple that is not true, I support the prime minister to serve the full term," Liberman stated.
Liberman said that, according to his agreement with Netanyahu, he would serve as foreign minister, defense minister or finance minister in the next government. He stated that he would prefer to remain foreign minister, and that would likely be the outcome.
On the issue of his political ambitions, Liberman stated, "Every soldier must strive to be chief of staff, just as every politician wants, eventually, to stand at the top of the system. I'm not obsessed with this, but that is my goal."
Liberman rejected claims that the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu merger came as a response to efforts by the opposition to form a Center-Left mega-party to challenge Netanyahu.
He stated that discussions on the merger began a year ago, "not after the Olmert trial, and not after Yair Lapid. The fact that it was not leaked shows the trust between the two people and our ability to run things the right way."
Likud minister moves to stop merger
Likud Minister Michael Eitan on Friday expressed opposition to his party's merger with Yisrael Beytenu, and called on faction members to sign a petition for a secret ballot to vote democratically on the union during Monday's Likud convention.
Eitan, who voiced his opposition to the move immediately after it was announced on Thursday, wrote Friday on his Facebook page that "the goal is to convince those at the convention and Netanyahu that the union with Liberman is a mistake that will hurt the Likud and fail to bring the promised results."
The government services minister proposed that party members sign a petition for a secret ballot on the merger in order to "ensure that this decision is made in a democratic manner."
In a statement released after the announcement of the merger on Thursday, Eitan called the union “the end of Likud and a threat to Israeli democracy.
“The liberal tradition of [former prime minister] Menachem Begin and [Likud ideological forbearer] Ze’ev Jabotinsky is over,” Eitan said. “This deal will bring extremism.”
An early Internet-based flash poll conducted by Panels Politics Thursday night predicted the newly combined party would win only 33 mandates in the upcoming elections, a loss of nine seats from the two parties' current positions in the Knesset.
In the current Knesset, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu hold a combined 42 seats.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.