Liberman vow to help build coalition false alarm

Reports that Avigdor Liberman intended to enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a government on Sunday morning ended up being incorrect.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beteynu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beteynu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Reports that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman intended to enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a government on Sunday morning ended up being incorrect.
The reports began on Saturday night when Liberman told MKs he was willing to have eight Yisrael Beytenu MKs sign for Netanyahu or Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who each need to submit the signatures of 61 MKs to President Reuven Rivlin to be given a new mandate to form a government. Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar took the reports so seriously that he began an effort to obtain the signatures of the 55 MKs in the Likud’s bloc of right-wing and religious parties and the eight in Yisrael Beytenu and submit them to Rivlin by 9 a.m. on Sunday.
But then Liberman backtracked to his previous position that he would only enable the formation of a unity government, and would not give his faction’s signatures to the Likud for the formation of a right-wing government or Blue and White for a minority coalition backed by Joint List MKs.
The Yisrael Beytenu faction will meet on Monday to discuss the party’s next steps. Liberman met with Knesset Speaker and coalition mediator Yuli Edelstein for a half hour on Sunday, but the two did not say anything to the media on their way out.
Likud already had the support of the 55 MKs in its bloc of right-wing and religious parties, so Liberman’s eight could have put Netanyahu over the top. Blue and White already began seeking 61 signatures when the 21-day period in which any MK could form a government began 10 days ago, but Gantz’s party would need the support of Arab MKs from the Joint List to get to 61.
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said his faction had not yet been asked to sign for Gantz. Zohar said he did not believe Yisrael Beytenu would sign for Gantz if Blue and White was relying on the Joint List.
If the Likud gathers 61 signatures, Rivlin will be required to obtain a legal opinion from Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on giving the mandate to form the government to an MK with three indictments. Mandelblit said last week that he would not rule on the matter, because it was theoretical at the time. It would no longer be theoretical if Netanyahu drafts the 61 MKs.
The reported decision of Liberman to sign for both Netanyahu and Gantz became possible after Knesset Legal Adviser Ilan Yinon ruled that any Knesset member can sign for more than one candidate to form a government, and that the first to present the 61 signatures to the president will receive a 14-day mandate to form a government. Signing for a candidate does not require the MK who signed to join a coalition led by the candidate he recommended.
Both Yinon and the President’s Residence said that whoever receives 61 signatures first will get the mandate to form a government. But if two MKs submit lists of 61 MKs simultaneously, the MKs who are on both lists will be asked to choose one of them. Rivlin will consider the list of signatures for 48 hours before granting a 14-day mandate to form a government.
That means that if Netanyahu or Gantz submit 61 signatures on the last day to form a government and Rivlin grants a two-week mandate two days later, the MK will have until Friday, December 27, to form a government. If the MK fails, elections would be held on the last Tuesday within 90 days after that, which would be March 24.
Likud’s efforts to form a right-wing government were harmed on Sunday when the National Union and New Right parties said they would wait with their signatures until just ahead of the December 11 deadline, and Shas leader Arye Deri said he would not submit his MKs’ signatures until Liberman submitted his. On Twitter, Deri accused Liberman of misleading the public.
“Enough with the spins and lies,” Deri wrote. “We in Shas, unlike you, are consistent: we support Netanyahu all the way.”

The Shas head attacked Liberman for demanding multiple ministries and over NIS 2 million for immigrants from the former Soviet Union “who don’t work and don’t pay taxes,” and the opening of 17 branches of the Immigration Authority in the FSU, “states in which it’s doubtful if there are any Jews at all.”
“How do you have the impudence to accuse the haredim of being extortionists?” wrote Deri.
Deri’s statements came in response to statements by Liberman claiming that Netanyahu is selling out the secular and Russian public to protect his strategic alliance with the haredim (ultra-Orthodox), and calling for a unity government of just Blue and White, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu to “nullify the influence of the haredi parties.”
Liberman responded to Deri in a Facebook post saying that Deri must have a “reading comprehension problem,” adding that maybe this was due to the “lack of core curriculum studies in haredi education.”
“In all the nonsense that you wrote, I didn’t find one word of truth,” wrote Liberman.
Tzvi Joffre, Anna Rayva Barsky and Aaron Reich contributed to this report