Liberman: ‘I Didn’t Back Down Because of Polls’

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In his first interview after the compromise that averted a coalition crisis over the Draft Bill Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio Wednesday that he did not believe that he “backed down” on his position regarding his party’s refusal to support the law regulating enlistment of chareidi youth. The compromise that ended the crisis – the establishment of a professional committee, including IDF officials, to evaluate the chareidi draft issue – “could have been accomplished a week ago.”

That was the conclusion many media commentators came to as well, which led many to accuse Liberman of “manufacturing” the crisis together with Netanyahu – shoring up Netanyahu’s government and ensuring it survives until scheduled elections in March 2019, and ensuring that he would remain on as defense minister if Netanyahu forms a government after those elections. “There were no deals, and I did not coordinate anything with Netanyahu,” Liberman said.

Liberman, the commentators said, sought such a deal because of the poor state of his party in polls. Several show Yisrael Beytenu barely making the election threshold; one poll showed that MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who resigned from the party in 2016 and serves as an independent Knesset member now, would get more seats on a list she headed than would Liberman’s. “I was not shocked or scared by the polls,” Liberman said. “I agreed to this committee because I am really not seeking to coerce anyone into anything. That is not what our position is about. We could have come up with this idea a week ago.”

Key to working out the compromise were Jewish Home ministers and MKs Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who lobbied all sides to come to a deal. “There were many factors involved in reaching this stage,” Liberman said. “I definitely have to recognize the efforts of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. She is not the head of a party, but she put a lot of effort into solving this crisis.”