Avigdor Lieberman 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that the crisis between his party and Kadima has been "overblown" in the press.
"We are in advanced negotiations with Kadima representatives," Lieberman said. "We haven't gotten all the answers yet on matters of diplomacy, absorption, and portfolios. The question of whether we'll be in the government won't depend on one issue."
Regarding the Internal Security portfolio, Lieberman said that while the portfolio was important, and was, in fact, "the issue [Israel Beiteinu] ran on," his party had to "look at the bigger picture."
Lieberman also denied having criticized Attorney General Menahem Mazuz, who recommended against Lieberman's appointment as internal security minister, despite having been quoted extensively to that effect. "I don't have any criticism against the attorney general," Lieberman insisted. "He has to do his job, and as long as nobody from his office has spoken to me directly, I see myself as a legitimate candidate for the Internal Security portfolio."
This was the first time that Lieberman backtracked from his vehement declarations that unless he were appointed internal security minister, he would refuse to join the Kadima coalition.
Asked whether his party would sit in a government that implements Olmert's convergence plan, Lieberman responded that "There is no convergence plan if it's not in the coalition guidelines." Guidelines including convergence, he continued, would be "unacceptable" to Israel Beiteinu. In the ongoing talks with Kadima, he said, the party would insist on watering down the clause in the draft guidelines that calls for removing West Bank settlements.