'We will stop demolition, avoid coalition crisis'

FM Lieberman denies reports that Israel Beiteinu had planned to leave coalition over unauthorized settlements issue.

FM Liberman speaks during Yisrael Beitenu meeting_311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
FM Liberman speaks during Yisrael Beitenu meeting_311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there is no coalition crisis and the government will find a solution for settler homes declared illegal by the High Court, following reports that he said “if settler homes are dismantled, the government will be dismantled” in an Israel Beiteinu faction meeting.
“There are no threats, and no desire” to break up the coalition, Lieberman said on Tuesday. “The opposite is true. This coalition is strong. No one has any reason to dismantle it.”
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Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu is the senior partner in the current Likud-led coalition.
Should the party decide to leave the government, it would lead to early elections.
However, this scenario is unlikely in the short term, because Lieberman often emphasizes the importance of government stability.
Israel Beiteinu faction Chairman Robert Ilatov, who attended the meeting, said that “nothing out of the ordinary happened. We always talk about potentially problematic topics in faction meetings.”
“All that was said is that the government must take responsibility, because some coalition members will not accept it if outposts are dismantled,” he explained. “The media is trying to add fuel to the fire, when nothing really happened.”
Ilatov added that his party would not try to pass bills that would prevent demolitions, saying that “legislation takes a long time, and it’s the government’s job to find solutions.”
Lieberman attempted to clarify his statements in an interview with Israel Radio, saying that he called on Israel Beiteinu MKs “to behave responsibly and with restraint” when facing the various “land mines” that may reach the Knesset in the coming months. These “land mines” refer to topics that the foreign minister’s party emphasizes, such as religion and the state, as well as settlement issues.
“I told my party that I expect them to know how to deal with the land mines responsibly, and not make them explode,” he stated.
However, Lieberman said that “evacuating settler homes would make some lives very difficult. Not just for Israel Beiteinu, also for some Likud members and Habayit Hayehudi.”
Therefore, the foreign minister said, “it’s important that a solution is found. I assume that no one wants to embarrass other members of the coalition, so there will always be some sort of legal solution that we can accept.
“This coalition is truly strong,” he emphasized. “No one has any motivation to leave. If we’re careful and responsible, we won’t reach situations where we face dilemmas that we can’t handle.”
On the topic of settlements, the foreign minister said it would be irresponsible for the state to dismantle homes given initial authorization by the state, but which never received final permits.
“The state, not the citizens are responsible [for most of the settlements],” Lieberman explained. “The state made a commitment that it then contradicted. These citizens were given mortgages by the Housing Ministry and built their houses following a ministerial committee decision.
“Now, the state is denying its responsibility, and turning normal families into criminals,” he added.
His comments come in the midst of a battle by right-wing politicians to avert the demolition of a number of unauthorized outposts, such as Migron, Amona and Givat Assaf, as well as a neighborhood in the Beit El settlement called the Ulpana.
If Lieberman carries through and pushes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to take action to “legalize” the outposts, it would certainly place the Netanyahu government in a bind with Washington and the rest of the world. After successive Israeli governments – beginning with that of Ariel Sharon – promised the US it would remove illegal outposts, a decision to legalize them would certainly unleash a flood of criticism.
The Netanyahu government has succeeded in keeping Washington from pressing too hard on the issue by saying that removing the outposts now – at a time when there is no real diplomatic process to speak of – would cause a great deal of domestic trauma in Israel and weaken the government when nothing is happening diplomatically to justify such a move.
Taking steps against outposts can be explained to the public as part of a bigger diplomatic picture if there are other diplomatic moves taking place, this argument runs – but when nothing is moving, there is no reason to force the issue now.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) echoed Lieberman’s confidence that the government will not take down outposts that the court ruled were built on Palestinian land.
“Legal solutions do exist, so that nearly 1,000 law-abiding Israelis, including IDF soldiers and officers, will not be thrown onto the streets,” Elkin said.
The Knesset Land of Israel Caucus, which Elkin leads together with MK Arye Eldad (National Union) has put pressure on the government, which in turn requested earlier this month that the court delay the dismantling of the Givat Assaf outpost, Elkin explained.
“I am happy that Lieberman and Israel Beiteinu have joined the effort to prevent these demolitions,” the coalition chairman added.
“I don’t think we’ll have to reach the other side of that equation,” he said, in reference to the possibility of a coalition crisis. “This problem can be solved.”
Elkin also pointed out that “when right-wing parties break up right-wing governments, it’s never good for the right. I don’t like these threats.”
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.