Two weeks and a day before the elections, the operative word in Israeli politics was “liar,” with politicians of nearly all the major parties bandying the term at their rivals.
The biggest liar, said Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), was Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, who on Sunday claimed that Blue and White head Benny Gantz had already closed a deal with UTJ.
Speaking on 103FM Radio, Rabbi Litzman said that “Liberman is lying, and not for the first time. We have not received any offers from Blue and White. Gantz keeps changing his mind, switching from a liberal secular government to one where he wants support from the chareidim. The right-wing bloc is strong and will not come apart.”
The “lie” Liberman ostensibly told was uttered by him in an interview Sunday with Yediot Acharonot, responding to comments made by Gantz the night before.
Gantz on Motzoei Shabbos said in an interview that he would establish a government “starting with Labor-Meretz-Gesher and Yisrael Beytenu, and other partners.” When asked if those partners would include the chareidi parties, Gantz said that that was possible, if they were prepared to accept Blue and White’s “liberal democratic” agenda, which, according to the party platform, includes public transportation on Shabbos and the full implementation of Yisrael Beytenu’s version of the Draft Law.
Under such circumstances, of course, neither UTJ nor Shas would join a Gantz-led government – and without the chareidi parties, the chances of Gantz forming a government are next to nil. Thus, Liberman said Sunday, “Gantz is lying very boldly” when he says he does not have a deal with the chareidi parties.
“All the messages and claims that he will include Yisrael Beytenu in his government are designed to steal votes from us. In reality he is working with the chareidim to form a government. Gantz has made proposals that have been accepted by Shas and UTJ. Gantz himself, along with Gabi Ashkenazi, personally made these offers. They are not offering the chareidim anything less than the Likud. Yisrael Beytenu is the only party that will prevent Gantz from selling the state to the chareidim.”
Without the chareidi parties, Gantz’ only move would appear to be siphoning off parties from the right-wing bloc, with the chareidi parties seen as more amenable to offers than Yamina – unless he plans to include the United Arab List in his government. But that is not the case, Gantz told Yediot Acharonot. While the Likud has pointed out numerous times that including the UAL in his government – or at least relying on its support from outside the coalition – is his only option, Gantz again denied that this was the case.
While not outright calling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a “liar” for making those claims, Gantz said “I reject the Likud’s claims” on his fitness for the prime minister post and his willingness to rely on the Arab list. “Without Netanyahu we could have a unity government with the Likud,” but as that was unlikely, he would establish “a minority government with Labor-Gesher-Meretz, a large Blue and White, and Liberman who does not want fourth elections. There will be no need to include the Arab list,” either inside or outside the government.
Gantz added that he expected Yisrael Beytenu to be a part of his government. “We made some good progress in negotiations we had with them previously,” he said, “especially in the religion and state issues. We want to have transportation on Shabbos in the appropriate places, women’s prayer areas at the Kosel, cancellation of the Supermarkets Law,” which limits businesses that can get licenses to operate on Shabbos. “We want all people to live with dignity under their own belief systems, whatever they are.”
In response to Liberman’s accusations of Gantz’s lying, Blue and White said Sunday that “Blue and White will establish a liberal, Zionist, and wide-ranging government that will change the priorities in Israel. Anyone who wants change should vote Blue and White in order to avoid fourth elections.”
In another interview Sunday with Reshet Bet, Rabbi Litzman reiterated his comments. “Liberman lied in the first elections, when he was completely right-wing; in the second one he was in favor of a unity government; and now he is fine with a government including the left-wing Meretz party. Soon he will accept a government with the Arabs.”
In the interview with Yediot, Gantz specifically said that he would not keep Rabbi Litzman on as health minister, even if UTJ joined his government. About that, Rabbi Litzman said “I can promise you one thing: If he needs us in his government, I will be the finance minister, and if he doesn’t need us, so be it.”