Lieberman mulls joining Kadima gov't

"Unilateral withdrawals should not be the aim of the next government."

Avigdor Lieberman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Avigdor Lieberman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel Beinteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that, while he did not rule out joining a Kadima-led coalition, he would not be part of government that did not dealwith security adequately. "I still have not seen an answer to Kassam or Katusha rocket attacks," he said. Lieberman said that unilateral withdrawal from settlements should not be the aim of the next government, but rather, it should focus on the security situation. "The Gaza disengagement did not bring an end to terror attacks," claimed Lieberman in an Israel Radio interview. He added that he would consider joining Olmert's coalition if a final border solution was linked to demographics and security, and not "just a senseless withdrawal to the '67 borders." While other parties talked about coalition strategy on Wednesday, Lieberman had a more wait-and-see attitude. "I see no reason to hurry. I prefer to wait until next week," he said, still flushed from Israel Beiteinu winning 12 mandates. This placed it ahead of the Likud, which had led the right-wing bloc for more than three decades. On Tuesday night, Lieberman toasted his success by handing out wine glasses to his supporters and leading them in a chorus that played on his popular campaign slogan of "Nyet, nyet, da." "Olmert, nyet," he said, holding up a wine glass, even as Olmert was seen giving his victory speech. On Wednesday, Lieberman smoked a cigar and cut a congratulatory chocolate cake. But in the cold light of day, he was less willing to dismiss Olmert, even though, unlike US President George W. Bush, he had not called him. Nor did he know if Olmert had contacted him. "I turned off all my phones. I have tried to just spend time sitting with my workers," he told reporters upon taking a break from celebrating with supporters outside Jerusalem. Lieberman said he preferred to wait until all the absentee and soldier votes had been counted. There are some 180,000 and they could make up at least two or three mandates, he said. Given that Shas, Israel Beiteinu and the Likud are all separated by a single mandate, the impact of these mandates could be significant, he said. "It could change the picture from stem to stern," he said. Lieberman dismissed the notion of a complete left-wing bloc as being unrealistic, given that Kadima, Labor, the Gil Pensioners' Party and Meretz together only make up 59 of the 61 mandates that Olmert needs to form a government. He would have to chose another partner as well, he said. Kadima's more conservative economic platform would make it hard to form such a bloc, particularly if Shas, which garnered 13 mandates, was added into the mix, he said. Lieberman said he believed he could be the right partner, but he ducked questions about the incompatibility of his diplomatic platform and that of Kadima. During the campaign, Lieberman alternatively touted himself as a right-wing and a center candidate. He often explained that his party was the only one to immediately allow itself to be fired for refusing to support disengagement. At the same time, he said, he was open to coalition talks with Olmert. "A party's purpose is to be in the government. There is no reason to be in the opposition," said Lieberman. But he added, that he would not sacrifice his principles to do so. "I am not ready to give up my world view," he said. On Wednesday, he continued this complex balancing act. He spoke against the road map, which was adopted by the last government. He said that he refused to vote in favor of it when it was first passed, so he didn't know why he should support it now. "It's a road map to nowhere," he said. Lieberman also spoke against further unilateral withdrawals, a policy that Olmert pledged to enact during the campaign. "What's the logic behind being a partner to another unilateral withdrawal?" he asked. "What would be gained by it?" Still, he said he would support any moves by Olmert to improve the nation's security and its Jewish nature. He dismissed as irrelevant statements by Olmert during the campaign that any coalition partner would have to agree to his platform of reshaping the country's borders. Lieberman said he cannot respond to a platform he has heard about only through the media. "I have not seen any documents detailing this plan, so there is no point in discussing it now," he said. He added that he was open to serious negotiations with Kadima: "When we see their proposal, we will consider it." Ideally, he said, he would like to see it form a government based on the principles by which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed the last one in 2003.•