Yisrael Beytenu MK Avigdor Liberman .
(photo credit: KOBI ZOLTAK)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman met over the weekend with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to resolve the remaining differences between him and Kahlon’s ministry that are preventing the completion of a deal for the party to enter the coalition.
The talks hit a snag when Finance Ministry officials ruled out Liberman’s demand for NIS 3 million to be budgeted for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who do not have pensions, to receive old-age payments of NIS 3,000 a month.
“It will have to start with a lot less money, and it will not be only for immigrants,” a source close to Kahlon said.
Negotiations took place late Saturday night, and talks will continue Sunday with Finance Ministry officials on the professional, not political level. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who heads the Likud’s negotiating team, reported significant progress in his talks with Yisrael Beytenu late Thursday night.
Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would like to complete a deal on Sunday so Yisrael Beytenu can enter the coalition on Monday.
Coalition agreements must be submitted 24 hours before they are brought for approval.
The deal will give Yisrael Beytenu the Defense and Immigrant Absorption Ministries. If the deal is completed Sunday, Liberman will be sworn-in as defense minister and MK Sofa Landver as immigrant absorption minister on Monday.
In an interview with Channel 2 on Saturday, Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abecassis said she was leaving the party because she believes Liberman deliberately kept her in the dark about his negotiations with the Likud so he would not have to seek socioeconomic achievements that are her agenda and not his. She said that, as Liberman’s No. 2 in the party, she should have been a partner in the talks.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak said on Friday the current governing coalition led by Netanyahu “is exhibiting signs of fascism.”
In an interview with Channel 10, Barak offered withering criticism of Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Liberman as defense minister in place of Moshe Ya’alon in a move to expand his coalition and solidify his hold on power, implying that Liberman does not have the temperament to serve as defense minister.
“Appointing unfit defense ministers has already led to bad results,” Barak said, an apparent reference to Amir Peretz, the former union leader who assumed the post of defense minister in Ehud Olmert’s government after capturing the chairmanship of the Labor Party.
“We will apparently have to pay the price for this appointment,” the former premier said. “I pray that the price won’t be too hefty.”
Barak seemed to echo Ya’alon in his remarks, saying: “Extremist elements have taken over the State of Israel.”
“The outgoing defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, was the victim of a purge,” Barak said. “In the initial months, Liberman will give off the impression that he is moderate. Sooner or later, however, we will see the price we have to pay.”
Barak said that during his travels around the world he has encountered many “world leaders” and “leading shapers of public opinion” who “do not believe the Israeli government [and its stated desire for peace].”
Liberman’s office issued a response to Barak, saying: “The legacy left behind by Ehud Barak following his term as prime minister and defense minister include a country on fire, smoldering ruins, failed military operations, and a number of shady and suspicious arms and weapons deals.”Ariel Zilber contributed to this report.