'Kadima won’t save PM from Lieberman'

Netanyahu, FM settle differences in good, positive atmosphere.

Livni 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Livni 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Hours after fiercely criticizing him in the Knesset, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu late Monday night at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem in an effort to settle their differences.
Netanyahu’s spokesman Nir Hefetz said the meeting lasted for two hours and was conducted in a good, positive atmosphere. Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu expressed hope that the recent conflict between him and Lieberman could be overcome.
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“Israel Beiteinu is a central partner in the coalition,” Netanyahu said. “Our meeting will be personal and deep. I believe that problems can be resolved with dialogue.”
Earlier in the day, Lieberman slammed Netanyahu at a press conference in the Knesset, but insisted that he had no intention of removing Israel Beiteinu from the coalition. He expressed hope that the coalition, with its current makeup, would last until its term officially ends in October 2013, but he warned that his party would not tolerate the extension of the 10-month settlement freeze beyond September.
“There is no crisis from our point of view and we do not intend to leave,” Lieberman said. “There are disputes about the budget and legislation. There is a problem with the coalition agreement not being properly enforced. But we won’t give anyone the joy of seeing us leave.”
Lieberman expressed outrage over Netanyahu’s stifling the conversion legislation promoted by Israel Beiteinu, the lack of funding for his party’s ministries and the criticism of his appointment of Meron Reuven as temporary ambassador to the UN.
“The attempt to gang up on Israel Beiteinu and call the conversion bill an attempt to divide the country is shameful and unacceptable,” Lieberman said. “There has been a surrender to tycoons. Look at the strange coalition against the bill of Meretz, Labor and Likud. They are sacrificing immigrants to help the wealthy.”
Lieberman complained that his was the last party with which the Finance Ministry negotiated the budget and as a result, the Internal Security, Immigrant Absorption and National Infrastructures ministries run by ministers from his party were harmed severely.
“We should not be the last priority on the budget,” Lieberman said. “There was no attempt to reach a compromise on the budget with us. It could be that this was part of an intentional political maneuver.”
But later Lieberman expressed hope that “we can very quickly overcome the budget problems and move on.”
Lieberman defended the appointment of Reuven, calling him an experienced and talented diplomat with fluent English. He said that contrary to reports, Netanyahu was aware that he had decided to appoint Reuven and that while they had not agreed about his candidacy, they both realized that the plum post could not be left vacant after Gabriella Shalev’s upcoming departure.
While it did appear that Netanyahu and Lieberman would make a sincere effort to settle their differences, Channel 2 reported Monday night that just in case, the prime minister had resumed his efforts to try break up Kadima by personally persuading seven Kadima MKs to leave the party.
Kadima MKs who had earlier considered leaving said following the report that they had not met with Netanyahu recently. One of the MKs said he did meet with Netanyahu’s political adviser Shalom Shlomo on Monday.
According to the MK, Shlomo said he “still fantasized about splitting Kadima.” But the MK said this was impossible now at a time when Kadima MKs were waiting to see what would happen following the end of the settlement freeze, whether potential Kadima leader Tzahi Hanegbi would be allowed by the court to remain in politics following his perjury conviction, and whether Lieberman would remain in the coalition.
“Who among us would leave Kadima for a government that could fall any day?” the MK asked.