Will Yisrael Beytenu’s recent achievements lead to more mandates? - analysis

Recent moves have Yisrael Beytenu on the right foot as they head into campaign season.

 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party has attracted attention over the past two weeks, making its campaign seem promising out of the gate.

Party funding law

The first issue that attracted attention was its opposition to the Party Funding Law. The law, which passed on Thursday, along with the Knesset dispersal bill, increased the funding that the Knesset’s 13 current parties will receive for their election campaigns. Yisrael Beytenu argued that the bill was a waste of public funds. It was the only party to actively oppose it.

Transparency and accountability aside, the move was also a win-win politically. While nearly all of the other parties have accrued debts of up to tens of millions of shekels, Liberman’s party is not in debt, and the finance minister insists that it remains so, a source close to the party said.

Opposing the bill enabled Yisrael Beytenu to stand out as the defender of the public purse. And if it actually succeeded in blocking the bill, the party would have been the only one not in debt at the onset of the election campaigns.

Metro Law

The second issue that Yisrael Beytenu tried to push forward was the Metro Law, this time alongside Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli’s Labor Party. The bill’s goal was to set a framework for expanding Tel Aviv’s budding light-rail network into a subway system. It also aimed to make the project a national priority by forcing the municipalities and companies involved to put it above any other local or private venture.

 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli give a joint press conference, May 11, 2022. (credit: GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE) Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli give a joint press conference, May 11, 2022. (credit: GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE)

Had the bill passed, the credit would have gone to Michaeli and Labor, the source said. But Liberman and MKs from his party, especially Evgeny Sova and Alex Kushnir, still tried, or at least appeared to try, to push the bill through. The bill’s necessity is a consensus among most Israeli voters. And now, Yisrael Beytenu can argue in its campaign that it proved it was on the “right side” and that the Likud did not have Israel’s best interests at heart.

Fruits and vegetables of Liberman's labors

Yisrael Beytenu’s third, and perhaps most important, achievement was the deal it made with the farmer’s lobby to maintain the decision to slash tariffs on a number of fruits and vegetables. The deal was the outcome of long months of negotiations – and it was settled just as the last minutes of the 24th Knesset’s term ticked down.

The deal could eventually lower Israel’s relatively high cost of fruits and vegetables. If it does, this will prove a major success for Yisrael Beytenu, as a recent poll found that the high cost of living is one of the leading issues that voters care about.

These late moves have Yisrael Beytenu on the right foot as it heads into campaign season.

But this may not affect the party’s strength. The election is a long time away, and the party is not planning on trying to pull voters away from other parties. Liberman is content with the party’s current situation and is happy with its current MKs, the source said.

He and many others across the political spectrum, especially in Likud, are waiting for the day after opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu leaves the political arena.

Yisrael Beytenu and Likud ran under the same banner in the 2013 election and are ideologically very similar. But since then, Liberman and Netanyahu had a falling out, and their relationship is irreparable, the source said, adding that the day after Netanyahu, everything will change, and Liberman aims to be prime minister.

According to the source, Liberman maintains excellent ties with many Likud MKs and officials, and in the future, he may attempt to join the larger party and contend to lead it.