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, part of the Union of Right Wing Parties, headed by MK Bezalel Smotrich.
Liberman also added the left-wing parties Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties to his list of who could not be brought into a coalition, asserting that only Yisrael Beytenu could bring Likud and Blue and White together for a national unity government.
Shas and the National Union assailed Liberman’s comments as “demagoguery” and “fear mongering,” and said that he and Yisrael Beytenu were now irrelevant as they could sit with neither the Left or the Right.
In a new Facebook post on Sunday morning, Liberman expressed satisfaction at having generated dozens of column inches on his latest political maneuver.
He insisted 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, one of the two major parties would capitulate to haredi demands in order to lead a narrow coalition.
He pointed to Israel’s current budget deficit of 3.8%, as well as looming “desperate” Defense Ministry requirements, saying that the next government would be forced to impose harsh “decrees” on the middle and weaker socioeconomic class as a result.
“An emergency national government needs to be established without [party leaders Yaakov] Litzman, [Aryeh] Deri, [Bezalel] 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 & White, without the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party.
This promise was seemingly designed to pave the way for the departure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from political life, given that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has ruled out sitting in government with him.
SHAS MK Moshe Arbel lambasted Liberman, telling The Jerusalem Post that the Yisrael Beytenu leader was “only working for himself” and was conducting a campaign of fear against the haredi community.
“This is cheap demagoguery; the haredi parties never demanded a state of Jewish law,” said Arbel in response to Liberman’s claims that Likud and Blue & White separately would concede to religiously inspired legislative demands from the religious parties.
“We understand that we are a minority in the State of Israel, we only ever want to preserve the status quo [on religion and state] which has been in existence from the time of the Ben-Gurion era. We never demanded a halachic state or anything close to it,” continued the Shas MK.
Asked about a clause in United Torah Judaism’s draft coalition agreement with Likud after the April general election, which demanded legislation to allow gender-separate “public services, studies, events and similar,” Arbel said the clause was designed merely to allow the haredi community to conduct gender-separate cultural events with public money, which the Justice Ministry has banned.
“No one is going to force this on the Tel Aviv Culture Center or in Tel Aviv University. UTJ just wanted the possibility for haredim, in the name of pluralism, to have publicly-funded events like cantorial concerts, the Sukkot Simchat Beit Hashoeva celebrations, and academic studies in accordance with a haredi lifestyle,” argued the Shas MK.
When asked whether, despite everything Liberman has said, Shas could still sit with Yisrael Beytenu in the government, Arbel avoided answering directly, saying merely that the haredi parties “we will do everything to strengthen Netanyahu” so that Liberman won’t be “the deciding factor” in coalition negotiations after the coming election.
“Gantz won’t be our candidate, we will only recommend Netanyahu, even if the price is sitting in opposition,” he added.
Smotrich said in response to Liberman’s comments that the Yisrael Beytenu leader was “a little child lying on the floor screaming and banging with his hands and feet for a bit of attention,” adding that it was best “to just ignore him. It’s the best way to get him to stop.”
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