Lieberman: Likud has fewer votes than we do

Denied reports that he rejected a request from Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu to join forces.

The Likud is panicking because it knows it has fewer mandates than his party, Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday after he unveiled his program to fight crime at a Tel Aviv press conference. "All this Lieberman: Likud has fewer votes than we do he said. The Likud had no response to Lieberman's statements. "We will have more mandates than the Likud," Lieberman insisted, although last Thursday his party polled at nine-10 mandates compared with 17-18 for the Likud. He denied media reports that on Sunday he had rejected a request from Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu to join forces in a coalition that would block Kadima from forming a government. "There are no such talks," he said. Lieberman said he had agreed to Netanyahu's request to meet, but was not willing to divulge most of what was discussed. "I am not entering into any coalition talks before the elections," he said. In response to a call from the Likud that parties on the Right state their refusal to enter into a coalition with Kadima, Lieberman said he would sit in a government with any Zionist party but Meretz. "I'm not saying no to anyone," he said. Earlier in the day, Meretz leader Yossi Beilin stated his refusal to form a coalition with Lieberman. "I agree; I won't sit with him," Lieberman responded. He said he respected Beilin. But his viewpoint and Beilin's "are 180 degrees apart." With respect to Likud and Kadima, Lieberman said, he has already sat in a government with Netanyahu, as well as Kadima's Shimon Peres and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Still, he said, he was hurt that Netanyahu earlier this week had called on voters not to support his party. "It makes me less interested in working with him in the future," he said. Such attacks show the Likud knew it was losing the election and focused instead on capturing the right wing, Lieberman said. Holding up a record of the disengagement vote, he said that Israel Beiteinu was more deserving of the right-wing vote because its politicians refused to support the plan. Likud politicians, such as Netanyahu and MKs Limor Livnat and Yisrael Katz, all voted to pull out of the Gaza Strip, he said. "The party that led disengagement was the Likud," he said. Promising to stand firm against terrorism and crime, Lieberman said he would add 10,000 more policemen and women within the next four years. He also spoke of the need for stiffer sentences and not furloughing murderers. To offset claims by the Labor Party that the economy is a central issue in the campaign, Lieberman brought George Birnbaum, of Kidron Strategies in Jerusalem, to the press conference. Birnbaum said that a poll he did two weeks ago showed that 24.1 percent of voters were most concerned with terrorism. That was followed, he said, by 23.4% who prioritized personal security and 22.9% who believed that education was most important. Another 22.4% said it was jobs and the economy that topped their concerns. Lieberman attacked the Likud's crime prevention platform which also called for more police and increased efforts against theft, drugs and organized crime. For the Likud "it's a gimmick," Lieberman said. For Israel Beiteinu, it's the central focus of its election platform.