Liberman to demand health, interior ministries

Yisrael Beytenu leaders say his party will recommend no one for PM if they don’t commit to national unity government.

July 30, 2019 22:45
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 MK Avigdor Liberman declared Tuesday night that his party would seek the interior and health portfolios in the next government, as the two are currently held by leaders of ultra-Orthodox parties.

He took direct aim at Ya’acov Litzman, the Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chairman, by describing Israel’s health system as “very sick,” and said that the Interior Ministry must be wrested from the hands of current minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri to restore “normalcy” to matters of religion and state in the country.

Liberman also vowed to not recommend any candidate to form a coalition after the September 17 election if he does not promise to establish a national unity government without the ultra-Orthodox, Arab parties, and left-wing and right-wing parties.

Speaking at Yisrael Beytenu’s convention of central committee members in Tel Aviv, Liberman took fierce aim at the haredi political parties, promising to replace Litzman with a respected professor of medicine. Saying Israel’s health system needed “a professional” to deal with its challenges, he said he would demand his party get the Health Ministry and would appoint Prof. Leonid Eidelman, currently president of the World Medical Association, as minister.

Liberman’s comments seemed designed to provoke Litzman, who is fiercely defensive of his record as minister and has spoken proudly of his achievements there.

He also promised to cut child subsidy payments for a fifth child and upward, saying that large proportions of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations do not work because child subsidies make it financially viable not to seek employment.
“The occupation of the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs is basically to have children and for their children to have more children, and it is bringing us to the point of collapse,” said Liberman.

The Yisrael Beytenu chairman made sweeping promises about what his party would demand in the coming government, including a raft of measures “to restore Israel to normalcy” on matters of religion and state.

Liberman said that after the elections he would demand the Interior Ministry for Yisrael Beytenu so as to dismantle local religious councils which currently provide religious services such as marriage registration and kashrut supervision,  and replace them with a department for religious services in local government authorities instead.

He also said that obtaining the Interior Ministry was crucial to allowing local municipal authorities the right to decide if they want more grocery stores and other commercial activities available in their jurisdictions and vowed to overturn the so-called “mini-mart law” advocated by the haredi parties which stops local authorities from making such a decision.

In promises which will further antagonize the ultra-Orthodox parties, the Yisrael Beytenu chairman said he would demand that haredi schools teach core curriculum subjects such as English and mathematics as part of his conditions of entering a new government.

Liberman said he would also demand that the legislation he advanced to increase haredi enlistment to the IDF be passed without any changes from the format drawn up by the Defense Ministry during his tenure as minister in the last government.

He said that a further condition of his to enter the government would be a promise to legislate a mandatory voting law, stating explicitly that this was to nullify the electoral advantage enjoyed by the ultra-Orthodox parties given their high turnout compared to the general population.

“There is no real difference between Likud and Blue and White, or [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Benny] Gantz, so we will recommend to the president the first party [of those two] to state it will support a national unity government [to form the next coalition],” vowed Liberman. “If neither of these parties promise this, we won’t recommend anyone.”

He continued, “We are not against the ultra-Orthodox. We are against religious coercion. We are in favor of live and let live.”

The list of Yisrael Beytenu candidates was also announced at the convention, with Liberman at the top followed by MK Oded Forer, MK Yevgani Soba, MK Eli Avidar and MK Yulia Malinovsky at the number five spot.

In 16th place is Olivier Rafowicz, a reserve colonel in the IDF spokesman unit, born in France and a top commentator in French media.

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