Avigdor Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu in conversation with the Jerusalem Post.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman doubled down on his calls to exclude the ultra-Orthodox and religious parties from the next government on Sunday, and expanded his list of parties to boycott to include the National Union headed by MK Betzalel Smotrich, as well as Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties.
Liberman asserted that a “national emergency government” was needed to avert looming financial and security crises, and argued that without a union between Likud and Blue & White, mediated by Yisrael Beytenu either of the two major parties would capitulate to haredi demands in order to lead a narrow coalition.
“An emergency national government needs to be established without [parties leaders Yaakov ] Litzman, [Aryeh] Deri, [Betzalel] Smotrich, [Itamar] Ben-Gvir, Meretz, Labor, and the Joint List [of Arab parties],” wrote Liberman on his Facebook page.
“It is important to note that Netanyahu, who supposedly belongs to the right-wing bloc intends to transfer tens of millions more in protection money to the Hamas terror organization,” Liberman added in a side-swipe against the cash payments transferred by Qatar to Gaza with Israel’s approval.
“The only force which can make Likud and Blue & White agree to a formula which the majority of the citizens of the State of Israel hope for - a national and liberal government! Not a government of Jewish law! - is only Yisrael Beytenu,” he concluded.
On Saturday night, Liberman vowed that his Yisrael Beytenu Party would only join a national unity government of Likud and Blue and White, without the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party.
Because Blue and White leader Benny Gantz would only take his party into a government led by anyone in Likud other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Liberman’s promise was seen as an attempt to oust him.
The significance of his threat is that if the Right does not end up winning 61 seats without Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu’s career could be over.
“I was astonished to see the contemptible contest between Gantz and Netanyahu over who would surrender more to the haredim,” Liberman said. “We will impose a national emergency liberal government with Yisrael Beytenu, the Likud, and Blue and White that will reflect the will of the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Israel. We will do everything in order to block a haredi government.”
Liberman said that unlike past elections, when Yisrael Beytenu asked the president to have the Likud leader form a government, this time his party will recommend the party that receives the most mandates in the September 17 election.
“We hope to reach a state in which no one can create a government without us,” Liberman said.
Liberman criticized Netanyahu’s stances toward terrorists in the country.
“During his campaign, the prime minister spoke about a death penalty for terrorists, and he was the one who torpedoed it,” he said. “Now he is going to transfer another $30 million. How can he call himself right wing?”
The Likud responded to Liberman by saying that his statement proved that he is a leftist.
“The cat is now out of the bag,” a Likud spokesman said. “Liberman is saying clearly that he is ready to go with [Blue and White No. 2 Yair] Lapid and Gantz and force the formation of a left-wing government. Whoever wants a right-wing government must vote only for the Likud headed by Netanyahu.”
Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon mocked Liberman’s threat, saying that he could have forced exactly the government that Liberman says he wants now by voting against dispersing the Knesset, which initiated the current election that Ya’alon said was completely unnecessary.
“Better late than never,” Ya’alon said. “The right thing for the country is a unity government led by Blue and White that will work for all the citizens.”
Separately, United Torah Judaism issued a terse statement on Friday rejecting rumors that the haredi party had considered blocking the dispersal of the Knesset in May after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition.
According to a report in Maariv on Thursday, the haredi parties were willing to block the dispersal of the Knesset and give Gantz a chance to form a government, in return for an open letter from the Blue and White leader agreeing to a compromise proposal over haredi military service legislation.
The reported plan never materialized, but Maariv cited an anonymous source involved in the Blue and White–haredi proposals that the haredi parties are anxious to “free themselves from Netanyahu’s bear hug” and return to their king-maker status that they have lost to Yisrael Beytenu.
UTJ denied those claims on Friday.
“Despite various reports, the partnership with Likud and Netanyahu will continue after the coming election too,” a party spokesman said in a statement to the press.
Maariv contributed to this report.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>