Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday ruled out any possibility of an alternative coalition being formed without Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, despite opposition leader and Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog having said he is working to form a new coalition.Liberman’s comments came as talks between allies of Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) continued in an attempt to reach a compromise in their dispute over Israel’s new public broadcaster.Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) also reiterated that the election threat from Netanyahu over the weekend was unnecessary, unwanted and unhelpful to the state.
Liberman’s comments in particular essentially scuppered any chance Herzog has to pass a vote of no confidence, oust Netanyahu and create a new coalition.Such a step would require 61 MKs to accomplish it. In the current Knesset, that would necessitate the participation of Yisrael Beytenu, something party leader Liberman firmly ruled out.“There is no option for an alternative government.Someone is toying with the idea that one can be formed with 61 MKs, this option does not exist,” said Liberman during Monday’s Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting.He did allude, however, to the delicacy of the current stalemate over the incipient Israel Broadcasting Corporation and Netanyahu’s sensitivity about issue, saying it was critical for everyone “to act with common sense” or the situation “could spiral downward toward an election.”He added that “without too much effort... understanding that we are all logical people,” a deal could be reached.According to a spokesman for coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud), in order to satisfy Netanyahu’s requirements such an agreement might include several structural changes to the IBC, which is slated to begin operations on April 30.Those changes could include merging the IBC with the old Israel Broadcasting Authority – which is scheduled to close when the new corporation starts – and possibly replacing the director and the chairman of the IBC, against whom Netanyahu has worked for several months.“I cannot guarantee that we will not change the leadership of the corporation,” Bitan said on Channel 10’s The Morning Show with Orly and Guy on Monday.Bitan’s spokesman added that a demand to give the communications minister the power to appoint the IBC director – as proposed in a bill being prepared by the Communications Ministry – is being pursued by Bitan and MK Yariv Levin (Likud), who is also involved in the negotiations with Kahlon.Meanwhile, opposition leaders reiterated the notion of replacing Netanyahu, either by an election or the formation of a new coalition from within the existing Knesset.Herzog said in the weekly Zionist Union faction meeting that Netanyahu’s acts on that matter were irrational and disproportionate.“In the South they are shelling, in the North they are bombing and in Jerusalem, only Netanyahu’s communications cabinet is working around the clock,” he said.“Netanyahu’s obsession to the media, the American pressure and his investigations are setting the tone. He does not care about the IBA workers,” he added.Herzog then repeated his plan to form an alternative government, which he would lead. “The political system and the public have had enough of the prime minister, who operates according to mood swings,” he said. “In recent days I have been working on consolidating a Zionist-center bloc, a rational and big group that will replace Netanyahu in elections or in this current Knesset.”Earlier on Monday, Herzog sent a letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and State Comptroller Yosef Shapira demanding they limit Netanyahu’s interference in the media sector and order him to stop all actions on the matter until they set the limitations.MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) called on Kahlon to deliver on his promises and stand strong against Netanyahu’s efforts to shut down the IBC.“I cannot imagine that Kahlon, who pledged to protect democratic values, will chop the heads off of senior figures in the IBC and serve them to Netanyahu,” she said.“Free press is the most basic thing in a democracy and we should keep it that way.”
As Netanyahu faces police questioning, rivals look "post-Bibi" (credit: REUTERS)