Avigdor Liberman keeps up tough-guy persona in new campaign

Liberman said his party is essential because Netanyahu “gets confused and surrenders,” as opposed to himself.

Liberman launches new campaign for Yisrael Beytenu party, January 20, 2019 (Courtesy)
Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman can’t be intimidated. That’s the primary message Yisrael Beytenu’s new campaign materials are sending, along with criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not being hawkish enough.
In a press conference in Tel Aviv on the 20th anniversary of his party’s establishment, Liberman, with no Yisrael Beytenu MKs present, displayed the new campaign, including signs featuring an Israeli expression that translates as a cross between “doesn’t give a damn” and “won’t be cowed.”
The list of people he says he won’t give in to is MK Ahmed Tibi, Hamas, haredim, BDS and left-wing NGO B’Tselem.
Liberman also said his party is essential because Netanyahu “gets confused and surrenders,” as opposed to himself.
He presented a chart that showed the times Netanyahu voted yes and Liberman voted no: on the Gaza disengagement, releasing 1,027 terrorists in the deal to release captive soldier Gilad Schalit, apologizing to Turkey for killing armed activists on the Mavi Marmara, sending gas and millions of dollars to Hamas in recent months, a ceasefire after 500 rockets were shot into Israel from Gaza in November, and delaying the demolition of illegal Bedouin outpost Khan al-Ahmar.
“Netanyahu was a failure in every area of security. He has failed at deterring Hamas. There is no greater shame than this,” Liberman said.
Still, Liberman would not commit to sitting out of a Netanyahu government, nor would he promise to join one. However, he said that from the polling so far, it looks like the only likely scenario is that the next government will be right wing. Liberman also said he would like to be Defense Minister, but his demands will depend on the results of the elections.
The former defense and foreign minister said in third person that, when it comes to religion and state “Netanyahu will always surrender to the haredim. Liberman will never surrender to the haredim.”
For example, Liberman said he is in favor of the Kotel compromise, by which an expanded egalitarian section would be administered by a committee that includes representatives of Diaspora non-Orthodox Jewish movements.
Asked if he is comparing haredim and Hamas, Liberman did not back down from the campaign messaging, pivoting to haredi extremists who have assaulted IDF soldiers and his own opposition to closing shops that have been open on Shabbat for years.
In addition, Liberman argued that his party is the only one seeking to increase Jewish immigration to Israel, and estimated that “in a generation and a half there won’t be any more halachic Jews in the Diaspora, other than Orthodox communities.”
Liberman also called the Israeli Arab leadership a “fifth column” and “traitors,” and called for lawmakers to have to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and to the flag.
“They can’t say on TV that the flag is a floor-rag and that they would rather die than say the Hatikvah,” Liberman said, adding that there is no difference between nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu and Joint List MK Jamal Zahalka.