Liberman’s ultimatum: Accept all demands or we go to opposition

Rivlin grants Netanyahu two more weeks to form a government; State Comptroller vote in Knesset to be coalition’s first challenge.

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman launches Yisrael Beitenu on January 20, 2019 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman launches Yisrael Beitenu on January 20, 2019
If the Likud does not accept Yisrael Beytenu’s demands, it will not join the coalition, party leader Avigdor Liberman said in the Knesset Monday.
Liberman said he will not speak to Likud negotiators until they say they will agree to his party’s five major demands.
“They have our phone numbers,” he said.
The former defense minister slammed the government for allowing Qatar to transfer $30 million to Hamas in Gaza, a week after the terrorist organization, along with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, shot nearly 700 rockets at Israel.
If the next coalition “decides to defeat [Hamas], we will be loyal partners,” he stated. “There shouldn’t be any agreements [with Hamas] until our captive soldiers and civilians are brought home.”
Liberman questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy for responding to Hamas and said there are major gaps between Yisrael Beytenu and Likud on the matter.
“What is the endgame in Gaza?” he asked. “We can’t have an operation every few years and a drizzle [of rockets] in the middle. It’s intolerable. We need to focus on an endgame. No one else will do it for us.” 
Another Yisrael Beytenu demand is the defense and immigration absorption portfolios.
In addition, Liberman said the Likud agreed to passing Yisrael Beytenu’s death penalty for terrorists bill within six months of the government being sworn in. Death penalty for terrorists is already on the book, but the new bill would remove the need for a unanimous vote by the judges on the case, requiring only a majority.
Other Yisrael Beytenu demands pertain to matters of religion and state.
Liberman repeated his insistence that the haredi enlistment bill drafted by the Defense Ministry under his stewardship, which passed a first reading in the Knesset last year, be passed into law with no changes. 
He denied reports that he acceded to a compromise brought forward by the Likud, and that they are waiting for the chief rabbi of the Gur hassidic sect to agree to it.
Earlier Monday, President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu two more weeks to form a coalition. 
Netanyahu asked Rivlin for the extension until May 29, as the Likud has yet to sign coalition agreements with any of its potential partners. 
“On April 17, 2019, you tasked me with forming the government,” Netanyahu wrote. “During the following time, I and my negotiating staff talked to parties that recommended me before you, and we made serious progress towards forming a government.”
However, due to Passover, Remembrance Day and Yom Haatzmaut and “security events around the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said he must take the extra time permitted by law to finish building a coalition. 
Rivlin gave Netanyahu the maximum additional time to form a government, 14 days. 
Earlier Monday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein set a date for the legislature to vote on a new State Comptroller, June 3, which is the final legal date before current Comptroller Joseph Shapira finishes his term on July 4.
The comptroller election will likely be the first challenge for the new coalition.
MKs must submit names of candidates to the Knesset Secretariat, with the signatures of at least 10 MKs and written agreement from the candidate, by next Monday, May 20.
The factions in the Knesset have yet to announce any candidates. 
However, Netanyahu’s preferred candidate is thought to be Prof. Avraham Diskin of the Political Science Department at Hebrew University and a senior fellow at the Kohelet Forum, a right-wing think tank.
Another rumored candidate is Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon.