Liberman denies having sought to join Likud after April election

Liberman said, “Likud tried to get us to join and I said I have no interest in joining the Likud.”

July 8, 2019 02:27
3 minute read.
Avigdor Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu in conversation with the Jerusalem Post

Avigdor Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu in conversation with the Jerusalem Post. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has denied accusations that he sought to merge his party into the Likud after the April election, and that he blocked the formation of a new government after the prime minister thwarted his proposal.

A report in the Makor Rishon newspaper over the weekend claimed that Liberman together with Kulanu and its leader, Moshe Kahlon, had agreed to form one large right-wing, secular bloc with the Likud after the election.

But shortly after the election, the report claimed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to bring Kulanu into the Likud but not Yisrael Beytenu, because of Liberman’s demand that “thousands” of his party members be added to the Likud central committee to afford him heavy influence in the expanded party.

Liberman denied the report, saying that it was Likud that had sought the merger, not him, and that he had “no interest” in joining Netanyahu’s party.

Likud, he said, “tried to get us to join and I said I have no interest in joining the Likud,” the former defense minister said on the Meet the Press program of Channel 12, before he went on to denounce the Likud in the strongest terms.

“Likud isn’t part of the rightwing, it’s not part of the revisionist movement – it’s a populist, half-haredi party that sanctifies a cult of personality. I have no interest before, during or after the election” in joining Likud, he averred.

Another senior party source told The Jerusalem Post that Yisrael Beytenu had not wanted to be “digested” by Likud, and said the report was “totally false.”

Writing on his Facebook page on Sunday, Liberman somewhat moderated his comments about the national-religious sector, in particular its conservative, hardline wing.

He said that when he had claimed last week that there were “Messianic” rabbis at religious pre-military academies preaching values to their students that were incommensurate with the values of the IDF, he had been specifically referring to rabbis Yigal Levenstein and Giora Radler of the Bnei David academy.

Levenstein has made a series of inflammatory comments about gays and the place of women in the IDF and in society in general.

Radler was recorded giving a lesson to students saying that “Hitler was the most correct person in the world” because of his view that there is a single source of evil in the world, and of the need to eradicate it.

Radler said that Hitler was simply “on the wrong side,” that “pluralism is the Holocaust,” and that Hitler’s ideology of masculinity versus femininity was correct.

He later claimed that his comments had been taken out of context.

Liberman insisted that he did not want to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” regarding the religious pre-military academies, but repeated his opinion that the authority over, and funding of, the academies through the Education Ministry should end in order to halt the influence of extremist rabbis over them.

“The direct consequence of these messianics is that in recent years, we have seen the illegitimate phenomenon of dozens of soldiers who turned their back on a female IDF drill instructor, or female soldiers not being able to sing in Independence Day ceremonies,” said Liberman, referring to two incidents that received much attention.

The incident involving the female IDF drill instructor was something of a misunderstanding, however, and the officer involved had actually instructed his religious recruits to look away from the instructor.

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