Liberman Finalizes Coalition Deal with Likud

YERUSHALAYIM -
Leader of the Israel beyteinu party Avigdor Liberman arrives to the Knesset, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Leader of the Israel beyteinu party Avigdor Liberman arrives to the Knesset, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman reached an agreement late Tuesday night that would bring Yisrael Beytenu into the coalition with Liberman as defense minister. The sticking point that had held up the agreement to broaden the coalition from its current razor-thin 61 seats — the issue of pensions for immigrants who havenot worked in Israel enough years to qualify under current pension rules — was resolved.

It was reported that Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, who had opposed the move, relented to some extent, while Liberman lowered the amount of pension money he wanted the government to provide.

Attempting to dispel rumors that the pensions he advocated were only for immigrants from Russia, Liberman stressed Monday that his reform applied to all immigrants, and that the Treasury and media were deliberately portraying his stance incorrectly. “This reform is necessary to correct the injustices in pension policy and to help those in need. Unfortunately, most of these are from the former Soviet Union countries. I do not understand why it is being portrayed as an ethnic issue,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett said on Army Radio Tuesday that his party would not back down on a demand that the government appoint a special liaison to the IDF to review security issues on a weekly basis.

“Members of the Security Cabinet do not get any special training, and they cannot go into the field each day to see what is going on,” he said. “They need a trusted authority who can provide them with accurate information on a regular basis.”

Had such a liaison been available before Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Bennett said, the government would have had vital information about Gaza terror tunnels before the war started. “Especially now that we have lost someone as professional as Moshe Yaalon, we need this liaison,” said Bennett, adding that he would instruct the Jewish Home minister not to approve the coalition expansion unless the issue was addressed.

The announcement that a deal has been reached was made after midnight Tuesday night, Israel time. A formal signing of the agreement was scheduled to take place Wednesday morning.