Likud Won’t Make Coalition With Leftist Labor

YERUSHALAYIM -

Elections are still two months away, but Israeli politicians are already engaged in coalition-making, declaring publicly who they will and will not sit with in the next government.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ruled out the Labor-Movement for being too far to the left politically to be part of a Likud-led coalition.

“Labor picked an extreme leftwing and anti-Zionist list. There is a gaping chasm between the Likud, led by me, and Labor,” he said on Friday. “We will not cooperate with them in one government.”

Netanyahu quoted several statements by leading candidates on the Labor list: MK Merav Michaeli, who once said Israeli mothers should not send their sons to the army; MK Stav Shaffir, who reportedly called “Hatikva” a racist song; Prof. Yossi Yona, who said he does not connect to the concept of Zionism; and Zouheir Bahloul, who said his Palestinian identity is stronger than his Israeli identity.

The feeling was mutual, as Netanyahu’s comments came after Tzipi Livni, who is running with Labor, branded Likud as too far right for her people.

“Unity is not a technical matter of giving out portfolios; rather, it must be formed around a path,” Livni said. “Netanyahu and [Jewish Home leader Naftali] Bennett’s way is one that is deteriorating Israel in every area.

“There is an extreme rightwing bloc including Likud and Bennett, and their path is clearly not our path,” she said.

However, Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On downplayed the exchange, saying, “The day after the election, Herzog and Livni will sit in the government, whether as prime minister or as ministers in a Bibi-Bennett government.”

Notwithstanding Netanyahu’s words, Gal-On claimed Meretz is the only truly leftist party. “Meretz is the only left-wing party in Israel that doesn’t put on a centrist mask and isn’t ashamed of being left-wing, unlike Labor-Hatnua, which is running from being labeled as Left,” she added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that there is “no chance” his Yisrael Beitenu will join any coalition with the Meretz party, though he declined to say who he would support to head the next government.

“Guidelines are what will compel us. Will there be an eradication of Hamas? You cannot move forward with the peace process without removing [Palestinian Authority chairman] Abbas or eradicating Hamas,” he said.

Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir became on Sunday the latest in a series of Yisrael Beiteinu senior officials to resign.

“I find it hard to identify with the change in the political platform of Yisrael Beitenu, therefore my decision not to run for the Knesset as part of the party was a natural and necessary one,” Shamir said in a statement.