Lapid Tries to Talk Liberman Out of Coalition

YERUSHALAYIM -
Co-chairman of the Blue and White party, Yair Lapid. (Flash90)

Blue and White party co-chairman Yair Lapid attempted on Thursday to derail Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition talks, saying that Avigdor Liberman would get a better deal for his constituents if Netanyahu were not in office.

In negotiations with Likud, the chairman of the heavily Russian Yisrael Beytenu party has demanded an increase in pension payments to elderly FSU immigrants to NIS 3,800 per month (approximately $1,050), or roughly 70 percent of the current minimum wage.

“If Liberman joins the government he will need to compromise on the pensions and once again the Russian public will get nothing,” Lapid tweeted on Thursday.

But, contended Lapid, “If he waits a few months he will get 55 assured votes from us to raise the pensions to the amount he has promised. Together with us we’ll have 61 votes — an excellent majority.”

When asked by a Channel 12 reporter how that would work out, since if he joined Blue and White-led center-left bloc they would still only have 60 votes, short of a ruling majority, Lapid responded coyly, “Guess who my 61st vote will be,” apparently hinting that an MK in the Netanyahu camp would defect.

Meanwhile, Liberman might be signalling that a compromise is in the offing that could save Netanyahu’s faltering coalition talks.

A senior Yisrael Beytenu source was quoted on Thursday as saying that Liberman is “trying to lower the flames,” and to that end has instructed his MKs not to give interviews.

“We want to calm things down so negotiations succeed and we can talk about the matters at hand. We will do the maximum so there is progress,” the source said. “At the same time, we won’t give up our principles,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Even if Liberman can extract some concession on pension payments, no progress has been reported on the stalemate with the chareidi parties over state-religion issues.