Invective continued to flow on both sides of the political divide on Thursday, a day after the Knesset voted for new elections following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition.
Netanyahu carried on his attacks against Avigdor Liberman, saying that he would have been able to form a coalition had it not been for the latter’s “delusions of grandeur fueled by personal ambition.”
Addressing the public, he said, “You voted in 65 MKs from parties who promised you that they would choose me to form a right-wing government. They all kept their promises. All except for Liberman.”
He accused Liberman of “systemically toppling right-wing governments,” citing this week’s events and the April elections, which he also laid at Liberman’s door.
Netanyahu said he offered Liberman “everything he wanted,” but he still refused to join his government. “All of a sudden he’s against the chareidim…he’s been making deals with them for 20 years,” and went on to enumerate situations where he reached agreements with them. (Liberman is also said to have good relations with chareidi leaders in private despite often anti-chareidi rhetoric — though there has apparently been an end to that.)
Netanyahu, along with others in his camp, alleged that the Yisrael Beytenu chief scuttled the negotiations because of a personal vendetta against him. “He doesn’t want me to be prime minister, so he won’t let anyone.”
Responding to the PM’s broadside, Yisrael Beytenu issued a statement saying that the prime minister had “failed in the task of forming the government and is currently looking for whom to blame. That does not change the fact, however, that the sole responsibility for the repeat election is Likud alone.”
“Netanyahu is under pressure and is again spreading lies because he knows the public already understands who the real national right is, who wants to form a right-wing government and who tried to establish a halachic state,” it said, repeating Liberman’s theme in recent days.
In a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon, Liberman denounced as “delusions” Likud’s claims that he had prevented a right-wing government and was a “leftist” who wants to topple Netanyahu.
“It was the weirdest coalition negotiation I’ve seen,” he exclaimed. “It seems like from the outset Netanyahu didn’t want Yisrael Beytenu in the government. All the while, he tried to lure lawmakers away from other parties, from everywhere. Everyone from Yisrael Beytenu received a lavish offer to leave the party, betray me and join the government. Likud was sure we would break under the pressure and blink.”
Meanwhile, Shas chairman and Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri responded to Liberman’s slanders against the chareidi community.
“The only thing missing was him saying we have big noses or don’t bathe,” Rabbi Deri said of an article authored by Liberman during the coalition negotiations attacking the chareidim for their “questionable contribution” to the State of Israel.
“If the word chareidim were replaced by ‘Jews’ – we would say that it was an article from Europe,” Rabbi Deri said.
“For reasons of rivalry [with Netanyahu] and hatred, he decided to drag the entire country into this whole situation,” Deri said at the opening of a Shas faction meeting at the Knesset.
The Shas leader also said that this was the end of a personal friendship spanning many years. “It’s over,” he said of their relationship, noting that he has betrayed the chareidim community and him personally.
“It’s difficult to describe their demands, but we agreed to them,” he said. “This is the first time in my life that I have ever felt extorted, but extorted in the most obvious sense of the word.”
“And yet despite this, we did everything possible to form a government. Every time we approached them, we were greeted with another delusional demand — and I have no doubt these demands were made intentionally for us to say no — but each time we said yes, there was another demand,” he said.
“I feel very hurt and disappointed that he used us these past 40 days instead of just openly saying that he doesn’t want Netanyahu as prime minister,” Rabbi Deri said, and vowed that he would do “everything in my power” to ensure that the next government will not include Yisrael Beytenu.
United Torah Judaism’s MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni also said earlier Thursday that in light of recent events, “I will recommend to my colleagues not to sit with him [in a coalition],” he told Army Radio.
He said he believed Liberman wouldn’t pass the electoral threshold in the September election. “The public won’t forgive him.”
Blue and White chief Benny Gantz sought to gain some advantage for his party in the next election round, as he blamed Netanyahu for the coalition collapse.
“An entire country woke up to a morning of disappointment and disbelief that due to one man’s incompetence and weakness, costly and unnecessary elections have been forced on it,” Gantz wrote online.
He then turned the discussion to himself: “A few months ago… we made a big and significant achievement: We created a leadership alternative. Now, due to cynicism and political exploitation at the expense of Israeli society, we begin our journey again.”
“Just like back then, today I declare humbly and determinedly that together with my friends I shall continue doing everything so that Blue and White wins,” he concluded.