(photo credit: REUTERS)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday morning that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a national unity government with the Zionist Union, his Yisrael Beytenu party would not join the coalition.
Ahead of the election, there were reports that Liberman was turning leftward and would try to prevent Netanyahu's re-election. Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog said repeatedly during the campaign that he saw Yisrael Beytenu as an integral part of the government he intended to form. But later in the campaign, Liberman shifted rightward, and that continued Sunday.
"Netanyahu has the right to close a deal with Herzog and [his number two, Tzipi] Livni," Liberman told Israel Radio. "We wouldn't be part of such a government. That I can say definitely. He won the election. We would be happy to serve the nation in the opposition. I wasn't born in the Foreign Ministry and I don't have to be a minister."
Liberman said he did not know what coalition Netanyahu wanted. He accused the Likud of "stalling" in coalition talks and suggested it could be because the prime minister wants a unity government.
Israel Radio quoted sources in Likud saying Netanyahu did not want Liberman to remain foreign minister, because it could force him to also give a top portfolio to Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, whose party won more seats than Yisrael Beytenu.
Coalition talks will be held Sunday with United Torah Judaism and Monday with Bayit Yehudi and Shas. Shas leader Arye Deri told reporters at a Mimouna celebration at his Jerusalem home Saturday night that he was prepared to reach an agreement with Likud.
"We are ready to close a deal as soon as possible," Deri said. "It is too bad there isn't a government yet. But I think it will still take time, because it depends on other factions that are required to form a coalition. I hope the other factions come to their senses and realize their place."