Netanyahu, Liberman Meet Over Coalition Crisis

YERUSHALAYIM -
netanyahu liberman
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman (R), attending a ceremony with President Reuven Rivlin (C) in April 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With the clock ticking toward the deadline to form a government, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman met on Monday evening to attempt to bridge what appear to be unbridgeable gaps.

News of the meeting came after it was announced that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein received a letter signed by coalition heads stating their intention to advance a Likud bill to dissolve the government, admitting that new elections were unavoidable.

The letter was drafted at Edelstein’s request, and includes Liberman’s signature.

Meanwhile, the Knesset plenum approved the bill in a preliminary vote, 65 to 43.

Earlier, Liberman stepped up his rehetoric, proclaiming that he would not join a “halachic government,” referring to his refusal to compromise in any way on the chareidi draft bill. He further compared the Likud’s “propaganda machine” to that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin

Likud MK Miki Zohar said that even though his party is advancing legislation to dissolve the Knesset it was still trying to work out a last-minute coalition deal to avert early elections.

“This is not something that we’re interested in, but we have arrived here through no fault of our own, and we are still doing everything in power to establish a government.”

PM Netanyahu was expected to make an announcement at 8 p.m.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and other opposition leaders voted against the motion, which would precipitate new elections, arguing that instead he should be given an opportunity to assemble a coalition.

“My friends in Blue and White and I maintain that the responsibility for forming a government should be given over to the only existing alternative — the party that I lead,” Gantz said at the opening of a Blue and White faction meeting at the Knesset, reported by The Times of Israel.

Blue and White’s number two, MK Yair Lapid, also appealed for a chance. “Let us set up the government,” Lapid said. “The public wants a unity government. If someone else leads Likud other than Netanyahu, it will be possible.”