Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on May 30th, 2019.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman insisted on Tuesday that the central focus of the upcoming election is the influence of the haredi and religious political parties over the future government and “religious coercion.”
He accused the haredi parties of “extorting” right-wing governments, and said that Yisrael Beytenu was the only party able to prevent this from happening again.
Senior United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Moshe Gafni hit back later in the day, accusing Liberman of serving his own personal political interests and describing the Yisrael Beytenu leader as “a parasite” and “a hypocrite.”
Liberman famously – or infamously – single-handedly stymied the formation of a right-wing government after the last election due to his position on haredi enlistment legislation, and is now looking to secure his image as a defender of religious liberty within a right-wing government as an electoral gambit ahead of new elections in September.
“The current election campaign is about one issue: whether or not the right-wing bloc will become the haredi bloc with Yisrael Beytenu out of the coalition, or whether a nationalist, right-wing, liberal government will be established with Yisrael Beytenu,” Liberman wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
But he also took aim not only at the haredi parties, but also the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) and its extremist elements, saying that had the party gained just two more seats, there would have been a coalition, “including MKs Orit Struck, [Itamar] Ben-Gvir, [Bezalel] Smotrich, [Ya’acov] Litzman, [Arye] Deri and [Moshe] Gafni,” naming the most radical national-religious Knesset members and candidates, as well as the haredi political leaders.
“Only Yisrael Beytenu can prevent a situation in which a right-wing government is extorted by messianic haredim,” he continued.
“Anyone who wants the State of Israel to continue on the path of sanity and balanced, responsible and liberal policies, especially relating to religion and state, must vote for Yisrael Beytenu. We will not allow the continued religious coercion and the attempt to change the status quo.”
Gafni did not hold back in his response, which came in an interview with haredi radio station Kol Hai.
“Liberman is a hypocrite,” Gafni said. “What interests him is his personal interest. He is a parasite and we are hoping and praying that he does not pass the electoral threshold, and that he will not [again] be the deciding factor [in the formation of a coalition].”
Gafni also repeated UTJ’s oft repeated promise not to sit in a coalition with Yesh Atid or its leader Yair Lapid, although noticeably declined to say if the party would boycott Yisrael Beytenu, despite the latter’s recent rhetoric.
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