Likud MK: Liberman Wants Elections, He’s Stopped Talking to Us

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with MK Miki Zohar during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90, File)

Israel moved a step closer to new elections Monday as Likud MK Miki Zohar filed a measure for the dispersal of the 21st Knesset, and calling for new elections. The law will be placed on a legislative “fast track,” with a vote on its first reading set for Monday night.

The bill will then be rushed through committee, readying it for its second and third reading Wednesday – the day Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must report to President Reuven Rivlin on whether he has succeeded in forming a government.

The Likud will vote for the bill, as will Shas, United Torah Judaism and the United Right List – as will Yisrael Beytenu, party head Avigdor Liberman declared Sunday night. An alternative to new elections would be an attempt to establish a government of 60 MKs, with Netanyahu seeking to persuade MKs from Blue and White to either vote for establishment of such a government, or at least to absent themselves from the Knesset during the vote – thereby guaranteeing its passage. Liberman said that his party would vote against that possibility as well.

Rivlin could also give the job of forming a government to Benny Gantz, or even to someone else in the Likud. The latter is not considered a realistic possibility, and the former is unlikely as well, as all efforts by Blue and White to persuade Liberman or Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon to join a Gantz-led government have failed, Channel 13 reported.

In an interview with Reshet Bet, Zohar said that elections seemed likely at this point. “Liberman has cut off all contact with us, it is clear he wants elections. If that happens he could find himself in a situation where he does not pass the electoral threshold in a new election. Right-wing Israelis will not vote for him. People are getting tired of this process” of a small party holding up the formation of a government.

In a social media post addressed to Liberman, Zohar wrote that “for years you were a full partner of the right, your voters believed you time after time because you always promised not to endanger the right. The situation we are in is now dangerous, in contradiction to your commitment to your voters.” Zohar called on Liberman to “come to your senses and end this saga. The voters will not forgive you if you drag us to new elections.”

On Sunday night, the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisrael agreed to a deal on the draft law offered by Netanyahu, while Liberman refused to back down on his demands making new elections appear inevitable. After approval by the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, which described it as a breakthrough in the draft law negotiations, a senior member of the Likud told the media that “the ball is now in Avigdor Liberman’s court. If he agrees, there can be a right-wing government already this evening.”