Liberman Calls Netanyahu Invitation “Spin”

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman seen during a plenum session in the Israeli parliament on November 12, 2014. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90 *** Local Caption *** מליאת הכנסת מליאה כנסת ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ביבי שר החוץ אביגדור ליברמן
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman seen during a plenum session in the Knesset in 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s latest bid to expand his narrow coalition met with scorn on Sunday, as Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman brushed off Netanyahu’s remark that Liberman had signaled an interest in joining.

Liberman brushed off Netanyahu’s comment as “spin,” and that the prime minister is interested only in Herzog’s Zionist Camp as a coalition partner.

“Netanyahu is once again doing the total opposite of what he promised in the last election, and is negotiating with Tzipi [Livni] and Buji [Herzog], with the party, that he said just a year ago, whose members are not Zionists and threatened that ‘it’s us or them,’” Liberman said in a statement.

However, he was careful not to close the door all the way. If Netanyahu makes a “serious and true offer,” Liberman said that he will consider it.

After a week of nearly endless speculation about if, when, and how the Zionist Camp would enter his coalition, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the talks, such as they were, had not led anywhere. “The talks with Labor are stuck,” he told heads of the parties in his coalition. “Those talks were not going well, but we received positive signals from Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Liberman in recent days.”

Likud officials had been saying in recent days that the talks between Likud and Zionist Camp were on a low level and were not leading to anything substantial – but in a report quoted on Army Radio Sunday, party head Yitzchak Herzog announced that his price for joining the coalition would be “substantial” control over key ministries, as well as a supervisory role over peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, a role Tzipy Livni had in Netanyahu’s previous government.

Even if Herzog manages to make a deal with Netanyahu, however, it is unlikely he will be able to sell it to his own party. Speaking Motzoei Shabbos, MK Shelly Yechimovich, who strongly opposes joining the government, said: “He has no right to throw our ideology and principles out the window and turn us into accomplices of Netanyahu. Herzog told me what the Likud offered, and it wasn’t even something that would be offered to a mid-sized party, much less the senior coalition partner we would expect to be. It’s like throwing us a rotten bone and telling us to fetch,” she said.

Last week, sources in the Likud said that they had pressured Netanyahu into asking Liberman to join the coalition. Speaking to Makor Rishon, members of the right-wing faction in the Likud said that, in response to reports that Netanyahu had reached out to Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog to join the coalition, they had contacted Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu to discuss the conditions under which he would be willing to join the government instead.

“The only way to persuade Netanyahu to drop the idea of bringing Herzog into the coalition is to supply him with alternative possibilities,” the sources told the newspaper. “Netanyahu does not care that his coalition partner will be Zionist Camp, just that they will support him in the Knesset. So far, that appears to be the only option, but if we present others, Netanyahu will consider them as well.”

 


Updated Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm