Liberman: I Won’t Join Either Coalition; New Elections Almost a Certainty

YERUSHALAYIM -
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman delivers a statement at the Knesset, Wednesday. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

New elections are almost certain, as Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman announced Wednesday that his party would not join a right-wing coalition led by the Likud, and neither would it support a minority government supported from outside a coalition that Blue and White would organize.

Consistent with his position all along, Liberman at a press conference Wednesday insisted on a unity government, consisting of his party, the Likud, and Blue and White. “Any other kind of government will have difficulty functioning,” he said. “It will turn into a contest for survival on a weekly basis. I did everything I could, I left no stone unturned” in trying to convince Binyamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to form such a government, he said. “They even offered me the position of Prime Minister in the final year of the government, but I am standing on my principles. I will not sell them for a government position.”

Spicing his comments liberally with anti-chareidi comments, Liberman had said that he would join a government led by either man, as long as they compromised sufficiently to allow for formation of a unity government. In the end, neither Netanyahu nor Gantz proved flexible enough for the task. “If we do end up in new elections it will be because of a lack of leadership. One of them [Gantz] refused to accept the framework offered by President Reuven Rivlin, and the other [Netanyahu] refused to give up his messianic-chareidi coalition.

“There is no alternative to a unity government,” Liberman said. “Netanyahu is enslaving the Likud to the chareidim. Torah learning is a wonderful thing, but it should be done at the expense of chareidim. We don’t need more than 1,500 avreichim.” In any event, both parties are to blame – Blue and White and the Likud together. On the other side of the equation, Liberman said that “it should have been clear to all that we would not enter a coalition with the United Arab List.”

Regarding how to avoid a third round of stalemate if new elections are held, Liberman said that “all the Zionist parties need to come to a single platform. In addition, I am a believer in direct election of the Prime Minister, but unfortunately we cannot change the rules in the middle of the game.”

The mandate for Blue and White head Benny Gantz to form a government is at midnight Wednesday. A last-ditch meeting between Netanyahu and Gantz Tuesday night failed to bridge the gaps between the two – and hours before Gantz’s mandate to form a government expires, senior members of Gantz’s Blue and White party told Kan News that “it appears we are going to elections.” The party is not counting on Avigdor Liberman to step in and support a minority government together with the United Arab List – if anything he is more likely to form a government with the Likud. “Liberman and Netanyahu could have closed a deal days ago,” the sources said.