Reports that Yisrael Beytenu is willing to compromise on issues of religion and state are greatly exaggerated, party chairman Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday.
In a social media post, he wrote that “this morning I heard a mass of nonsense from all sorts of journalists about efforts to bring Yisrael Beytenu into a government and how it was willing to compromise on matters of religion and state, and join one or another political bloc. There is no truth to these rumors, and the articles are the responsibility of their writers alone,” he added.
Liberman was responding to reports that he was prepared to “soften” his position on some of the issues on which he has taken an uncompromising stance. The purpose would be to bring Binyamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz closer to the idea of a unity government by making it easier for his party to join a government that includes chareidi parties. The only issue he would not compromise on, the reports said, was the Draft Law and the Grocery Law, the latter requiring stores operating in cities to close on Shabbos unless they received specific permission from the Interior Minister to operate.
On Sunday, reports said that MKs in the Likud and Yemina – now officially split into two separate factions of the New Right and National Union – were urging the chareidi parties to compromise on several issues in order to pave the way for Liberman to join a government led by Netanyahu.
Kan News said that Liberman had made it known that he would be willing to make a deal, if the chareidi parties compromised on several issues, such as the draft law and local laws regarding Shabbos and kashrus.
Kan News quoted a senior member of the right-wing bloc as saying that “only Liberman can save Israel from a third round of elections.”
In an interview Sunday, New Right MK Ayelet Shaked told Army Radio that the chareidim would have to compromise on at least some issues in order to encourage Liberman to join the coalition. “There are only two possibilities – either Netanyahu and Benny Gantz form a unity government, with the only issue that they need to decide is who will act as prime minister first, or that Liberman joins the right-wing bloc. For that to happen the chareidim will have to compromise,” she said.
But in response, United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said that there would be no compromise on issues relating to religion and state. “I am saying this in the clearest and most public manner possible – there will be no compromise on the issues that are important to us. Compromises will not be done directly, indirectly or in any other way.” Liberman, MK Rabbi Gafni said, “does not want a government with chareidim, so there is nothing to compromise on,” as whatever concessions UTJ and Shas make will just whet Liberman’s appetite for more, and will not result in a stable deal for either the government or the chareidi public.
MK Rabbi Yitzchak Vaknin of Shas confirmed MK Rabbi Gafni’s position. “We have gone as far as we can go on issues like the draft law, and it wasn’t enough. Liberman is truly a riddle,” he said. “I think that we could have formed a government in the April elections, but unless everyone backs down now, we will have a third election.”