Avigdor Liberman insists national-unity govt only option

Yisrael Beytenu leader sets out uncompromising religion and state demands which ultra-Orthodox parties will fiercely oppose

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beitenu party, casts his ballot in Israel's parliamentary election, along with his wife Ella at a polling station in Nokdim in the West Bank (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beitenu party, casts his ballot in Israel's parliamentary election, along with his wife Ella at a polling station in Nokdim in the West Bank
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman insisted on Wednesday afternoon that he would not join a narrow government of the left or right, and committed again to the establishment of a national unity government of Blue and White, Likud and his own party.
“If [Blue and White leader Benny] Gantz and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu do not come out with a declaration that this is their intention they shouldn’t bother to call me at all,” Liberman wrote firmly on his Facebook page.
Liberman also decisively ruled out sitting with the Arab parties of the Joint List.
And he laid out his demands on religion and state issues for entering a unity government.
“We will not concede on passing the ultra-Orthodox enlistment law, in its original format, we will not concede on [the demand to] repeal the mini-markets’s law, we will not concede on [demands for] public transport on Shabbat, we will not concede on [demands for] civil marriage, and we will demand the inclusion of core curriculum studies into the ultra-Orthodox education system,” he wrote.
“These are out preconditions and until we hear words in this spirit there is nothing to talk about,” he averred.
He also accused the ultra-Orthodox parties of engaging in incitement towards him, noting that senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni had compared him to Amalek, the ancient enemy of the Jewish people.
“We want a normal country in which the citizens will live in accordance with the principal of live and let live. I don’t ask to open grocery stores on Shabbat in [the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of] Bnei Brak, and I am not prepared for stores to be closed on Shabbat in Ashdod, period.
Repeated demands for the establishment of civil marriage in Israel, and the mandatory teaching of core curriculum studies in ultra-Orthodox primary schools as conditions for entering any new government.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader also called on President Reuven Rivlin to take ‘active role’ in bringing about national unity govt.
Speaking outside his home in the Nokdim settlement early Wednesday morning after Yisrael Beytenu looks to have nearly doubled its Knesset representation, Liberman repeated his assertion that his party would only enter a national unity government without sectoral parties.
“A national unity government, a broad liberal government. We will not join any other option. From our point of view no other option exists,” said Liberman, adding that Yisrael Beytenu would not sit in a government with the Joint Arab List, an idea he describe as “absurd.”
“What is clear is that we will not concede on the repeal of the mini-markets law, we will not concede on public transport on Shabbat, and not on civil marriage,” insisted Liberman.
“A precondition for our entry into the government is also core curriculum studies in the ultra-Orthodox education system. We will give only full governmental support to the ultra-Orthodox education system with the introduction of core curriculum studies.”
The independence of the ultra-Orthodox education system is an extremely sensitive issue and possibly more explosive even than that of enlistment to military service, since the ultra-Orthodox leadership sees the education system as the critical tool for transmitting an ultra-Orthodox identity to its youth.
Asked if he could still sit in a government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bearing in mind the rancour between the two, Liberman said there was “no personal issue,” and that “we don’t rule anyone out.”
He added “The key at the moment is with the president. He has to take a much greater active role than in the last round [of elections].”
Shas leader Aryeh Deri described Liberman’s list of demands as “arrogance.”