Liberman: Options Have Run Out, We’re Going to Elections

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The options to form a unity government have run out, and Yisrael Beytenu is not interested in joining a narrow rightwing government, party leader Avigdor Liberman said Thursday. “I did everything I could to prevent third elections, but with other options running out we are going to elections,” he told Yediot Acharonot in an interview published Thursday Yisrael Beytenu has throughout the government-formation process been seen as a key to unlock the electoral deadlock that has seen neither the Likud nor Blue and White able to form a government. The announcement by Liberman makes new elections a near-certainty.

Reports in recent days said that Liberman was considering a variety of plans that would allow for at least the establishment of a temporary government. On Wednesday, a report in Maariv said that party MKs had proposed establishment of an “experts’ government” that would include 12 ministers, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The government would be very limited in its activities, basically formed in order to pass the state budget and deal with security issues. The government would last for a year, after which there would be new elections.

But it turns out that these reports were just tactics to pressure both parties to move towards the result Liberman claimed to be shooting for. Throughout the process of the establishment of a government, Liberman claimed that he would only join a unity government consisting of the Likud, Blue and White, and his party.

That has not panned out, and it is the fault of both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz. “I tried to exercise pressure on both of them to persuade them to agree to a unity government. When Netanyahu tried to form a government I kept quiet. Over the past week I hinted that we would join a Likud-led rightwing government in order to pressure Blue and White. But both of them adopted a strategy not to go to a unity government. These elections are the responsibility of both parties,” he said. That is because both parties have polls that indicate that, given a third opportunity, they will be able to break the electoral deadlock and come up with a government of 61 mandates.

By going to elections, Liberman said, he was making a major personal sacrifice. “Personally ,the proper thing for me to do would be to enter a government led by Netanyahu. I could have gotten two ministries and control of key Knesset committees, and access to budgets to advance my party’s agenda. We are the only party that put the interests of the state ahead of our own. We didn’t just say this, we did it,” he added.