'Israel Beiteinu is our central partner'

Netanyahu responds to Lieberman's harsh criticism of government.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
In reaction to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed his respect for Lieberman's party, Israel Beiteinu. "Israel Beiteinu is our central partner, and is important to the government," said Netanyahu.
The prime minister added that most of the problems between Israel Beiteinu and his government could be solved through negotiations, and that he and Lieberman would meet later on Monday to discuss the issues.
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Lieberman expressed his disgust at the treatment received by his Israel Beiteinu party from the Netanyahu-led government at a press conference at the Knesset on Monday.
"First of all, I want everyone to relax," Lieberman said. "There is no crisis, and I have no intention to quit the coalition."
"I hear that nowadays it's in style to criticize the media. I have seen important and intelligent people criticizing the media, and I will too," continued Lieberman. "I have never seen so much nonsense from the analysts!"
Lieberman reiterated that there is no crisis, saying "there is a serious argument on at least two issues - budget and legislation."
"Israel Beiteinu is the primary partner in the coalition. We are the most loyal and the most disciplined," the foreign minister said, "and we signed the coalition agreement first. There is a complex problem with the coalition agreement."
"It can not be that we were the first," to sign the agreement, "but we're the last when it comes to the budget. We weren't humiliated, and we aren't the kind of people who let others humiliate us - we won't give this joy to anyone. We do not intend to leave."
"This coalition could last until  2013 in its current framework, and we will do everything possible to make it happen," Lieberman said.
Conversion bill: 'It shows that Likud has given in to pressure from the wealthy'
On the conversion bill, Lieberman mocked reporters who said his behavior is revenge for Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's visit with the Turkish foreign minister.
"This was a central issue in our coalition agreement with the Likud," Lieberman explained. "The attempt to blame Israel Beiteinu and call the bill an attempt to divide the country is shameful and unacceptable.  When I saw the strange coalition of Meretz, Labor, Kadima and Likud, I was surprised by the approach of the parties. It shows that they've given in to pressure from the wealthy."
"We negotiated with [Sepharadic Chief] Rabbi Amar," the foreign minister added. "He agreed that he would not be in charge of conversion outside of Israel, but [Jews abroad] won't interfere here."
'The budget is unacceptable - could be a political move'
As for aliyah, Lieberman said that the current budget displays "typical Israeli" behavior: "They like aliyah, but not olim." He added that the Immigrant Absorption Ministry's budget was cut more than any other, enough to destroy it.
"The problems with the budget are unacceptable. There was no attempt to reach a compromise on the budget. It could be that this was a planned political move," he explained, adding that Israel Beiteinu's ministries were cut significantly. "The Finance Ministry went over our heads specifically with the Foreign Ministry and the Public Security Ministry . We will not accept attempts to take responsibility away from the Infrastructure Ministry."
"I don't understand the insistence," Lieberman said. "We can very quickly overcome budget problems, and move on."
'Meron Reuben has the skills'
Lieberman also addressed the appointment of Israel's new ambassador to the UN, Meron Reuben.
"The prime minister did know in advance about the appointment of Meron Reuben," the foreign minister said. "Unfortunately we didn't reach an agreement on the ambassador. Shalev is leaving and there are important events in September in the UN. There was no other choice; we couldn't have left the job open."
Lieberman defended his choice of ambassador, saying, "Meron Reuben is an experienced diplomat. He has been an ambassador three times, he speaks fluent English, and he has the skills. He will be there for six months and if he succeeds he will stay."
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.