Yisrael Beytenu Avigdor Liberman at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, March 15, 2015.
(photo credit: YISRAEL BEYTENU SPOKESPERSON)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman painted himself as the true right-wing camp on a visit to Hebron Sunday and reminded voters that he had quit the government to protest the 2005 Gaza withdrawal.
“The real right wing is here,” the head of Yisrael Beytenu said as he attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance as the leader of the Right, hours before the prime minister was scheduled to speak at a right-wing rally in Tel Aviv.
“I did not give away Hebron,” said Liberman, in reference to Netanyahu’s decision during his first premiership to divide Hebron and place a large portion of the city under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority in 1997.
“We voted against disengagement,” said Liberman in reference to the decision of the National Union party in 2004 to vote against disengagement when former prime minister Ariel Sharon brought it to the cabinet. Sharon, in response, fired Liberman from his post as transportation minister.
Liberman did not mention, however, that his own plan for a two-state solution calls for the withdrawal from territory but as part of an overall deal to redraw Israel’s borders to maintain the highest Jewish population possible while losing territory with a high concentration of Israeli Arabs.
“I always voted against the release of terrorists,” Liberman said, adding that his party, which ran for the first time in the 2006 election, always has insisted that Hamas must be destroyed.
Liberman spoke with reporters on the stairwell leading to the Cave of the Patriarchs. He noted that he often has visited the ancient Biblical site at critical moments prior to elections, doing so in 1996 and 2013.
He dismissed polls that have given his party only four or five mandates, as well as the speculation by some that he might not even receive four – the lowest number possible to hold Knesset seats.
Yisrael Beytenu, he predicted, will receive at least 10 mandates, if not more.
“We are talking about double digits,” he said. In 2006, Yisrael Beytenu received 11 mandates and in 2009 it was the third-largest party with 15.
At the time, he said the Kadima party under Tzipi Livni, which received the most votes in that election, tried to sway him to join its coalition and offered him more favorable terms than the Likud.
He rejected their offer, became part of the national camp and joined Netanyahu’s coalition.
“I see myself as an integral part of the national camp,” he said. Still, he noted, he was not wed to Netanyahu.
“What is important are the principles and not the personalities,” said Liberman. “We are not obligated to anyone. What is most important is to retain our principles.
“We want to ensure that the government will eliminate Hamas and not support ‘Disengagement II,’ this is what is essential.”
Liberman also wants to strip the Supreme Court of its power to overturn Knesset legislation, and said this will be part of any coalition agreement Yisrael Beytenu signs.
“I see myself as the Defense Minister in the next government,” he said.
Asked by a journalist what he would tell President Reuven Rivlin when they meet following the election to recommend a politician best suited to lead the government, Liberman said: “I am recommending myself.”