Third election will be Netanyahu’s fault, Liberman says

Bennett: Third election will damage the right-wing bloc.

Heads of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Avigdor Liberman, Head of rightist Yisrael Beiteinu party. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, December 2, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Heads of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Avigdor Liberman, Head of rightist Yisrael Beiteinu party. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, December 2, 2018
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the country to a third election in less than a year, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman warned in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“The nation will not forgive him,” Liberman wrote.
Liberman pointed out that his party has called for a national-unity government since the September 17 election.
Netanyahu leads a 55-seat bloc of religious and right-wing parties, and if Liberman were to join them, there would be a governing majority and an election could be avoided. However, Liberman has said he will only be in a government based on Likud and Blue and White, which will push for greater haredi (ultra-Orthodox) IDF enlistment and other bills that the religious parties in Netanyahu’s bloc oppose. He also refused to join a Netanyahu-led government in May, and that refusal was part of the impetus for the second election this year.
Liberman blamed Netanyahu for the political impasse, pointing to a plan for a unity government that he presented to the prime minister last month and saying that the Likud has ignored him.
While speaking at the kick-off event of the Christian Media Summit and the inauguration of the Friends of Zion Museum’s media center, Netanyahu said, perhaps sarcastically, “we are in a pre-election period.”
In his plan, Netanyahu would be first in a rotation for the premiership with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, but Netanyahu would not automatically bring the whole right-wing bloc with him.
“Netanyahu is holding on to the haredi-messianic bloc for personal reasons only... the attempt to hold both sides of the stick, to negotiate for a unity government with the haredi-messianic bloc and to be first in a rotation shows with certainty that all the responsibility for paralyzing the institutions of the government and a third election will be on Netanyahu, and only Netanyahu,” Liberman said.
But Liberman has also ruled out working with Blue and White on some of its policies that it seeks to promote even before there is a government.
“Yisrael Beytenu rejected different offers it received for unilateral moves that could harm the negotiations to form a government,” he said, “such as supporting a bill to prevent an MK with an indictment against him to be a candidate for prime minister, or to replace the Knesset speaker in this interim time.”
Liberman said he opposes “controversial, unilateral moves” before a coalition is formed, and Yisrael Beytenu does not support “personal” bills, like the one that would target Netanyahu if he is indicted.
A 103FM poll showed on Thursday that if there is a third election, 52% of voters would blame Netanyahu, and only 27% would blame Blue and White’s leaders, Gantz or Yair Lapid, while 21% blame Liberman.
UTJ senior MK Moshe Gafni said a third election would be disastrous, and it would be Liberman’s fault.
“The health system is crashing from lack of funds,” Gafni told Army Radio.
In reference to Liberman, Gafni said: “For a year, Liberman hasn’t gone left or right. He is on the fence and in the meantime, the country is paralyzed. It’s too bad that the media is afraid to talk about the person to blame for this situation. His name is Liberman.”
As for calls for the haredim to be flexible, Gafni said that he could compromise on jobs – he has long been Knesset Finance Committee chairman – but not on matters of ideology.
Also Sunday, New Right leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked warned that a third election would damage the Right.
“A third round of elections would crush the right-wing bloc at historic levels,” Bennett warned on Army Radio.
The comments came the day after Bennett said he would free Netanyahu of any obligation to him and the New Right to avoid another election.
Similarly, Shaked told Army Radio that another election is “terrible for Israel, and it’s also bad for the Right. In the last election, [the Right] had 61 seats without Liberman, now we have 55. The polls show the public doesn’t want a third election and if, God forbid, we get there, the Right is in danger.”
As such, Shaked added, the only possibilities are a unity government, in which Gantz and Netanyahu reach an agreement on who goes first in a rotation, or that Liberman returns to the right-wing bloc, to “bring great achievements for his voters and the haredim will have to compromise.”
Shaked also said that Netanyahu and Bennett spoke often in recent weeks, but that Netanyahu isn’t talking to her. She and Bennett worked for Netanyahu when he was opposition leader, and they left on bad terms with him, which has colored their political relationship ever since.
Culture Minister Miri Regev took umbrage with Blue and White seeking her portfolio, which she said is something that Likud chief negotiator Yariv Levin told her the party wants.
“They want to cancel all the changes I made, giving funding to the periphery and Judea and Samaria,” she said before Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “Oy vey, [they will be] second-class citizens.
What is going on here? What, do they really want to give everything to [Joint List MKs] Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi?”