Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman officially went into “business” together Wednesday, as they signed the coalition agreement that will had the party’s five MKs to the Likud-led coalition. A sixth MK, Orly Levy-Abecassis, quit the party last week, reportedly because she was passed over for a ministerial post.
As part of the deal, Liberman will take on the post of Defense Minister, as well as the naming of MK Sopha Landver as Absorption Minister. A party MK will also be named as a Deputy Knesset Speaker.
In terms of legislation, Yisrael Beytenu achieved two key promises in the coalition negotiations, although they had to compromise on their original position. Liberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed that NIS 1.4 billion would be set aside for immigrants who have not worked in Israel enough years to qualify under current pension rules. Liberman had originally sought double that amount.
In addition, military courts will be able to sentence terrorists to death with two of the three members of a tribunal voting to execute a terrorist, instead of the unanimous vote that was required until now. Liberman had wanted terrorist executions to be codified in state law.
In the past, Netanyahu said at the signing ceremony, there had been tension between him and Liberman – but that was in the past. “Since I established this government last year I have been seeking to expand it, in order to deal with the challenges that we face, and I am very happy that Avigdor Liberman and his party are joining.
“Avigdor and I know each other for many years, and I respect him. It is no secret that we have had our differences, sometimes including vituperative comments that we uttered about the other that we should not have said. Today we are joining hands to help the state move forward,” Netanyahu said. “I as Prime Minister and Avigdor Liberman as Defense Minister, together with the Chief of Staff and the other heads of our defense forces, will continue to work for the security of Israel, with great determination and responsibility.”
In his comments, Liberman reflected Netanyahu’s, saying that “from now on we are new-old partners. The bottom line is that the security of Israel is important to us all. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who worked to bridge the gaps” between him and Netanyahu, Liberman added.
The Prime Minister again called on Yitzchak Herzog to join the government, especially since Netanyahu is very interested in advancing talks with the Palestinians, he said.
Speaking earlier, MK Yariv Levin (Likud), who was in charge of the negotiations on the government’s side, told Army Raio that the deal reached overnight between the coalition and Yisrael Beytenu “will benefit all Israelis. “Overnight we succeeded in coming to an agreement on the final details, especially the issues that were outstanding between the government and Treasury,” he told Army Radio. “This is a good deal that will benefit all of us, and I congratulate both sides for achieving it.”