Lieberman: Yair Lapid a Natural Choice for Finance Minister in Next Government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents the three principles guiding coalition talks: more equal distribution of the national burden, affordable housing and a change in the system of government.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman responded Wednesday to the results in Israel's election, saying that Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party secured 19 Knesset seats, will be the natural choice for finance minister in the next government.

Lieberman said that all parties who agree to the new coalition's principles are "welcome to join," adding that "the ultra-Orthodox parties understand they will have to be flexible."

Lieberman also said that Yair Lapid is a natural partner in the coalition. "There is no doubt that with 19 Knesset seats, Lapid will be a senior member of the government," adding that it is only natural that Lapid will receive the finance portfolio and focus on domestic issues. "We are not ruling anyone out," Lieberman added.

"The people have demanded a dramatic change, not just a cosmetic one," Lieberman said at a press conference. "The coalition must determine its agenda from the very start, it can't go for everything, and it needs to define precisely what the common denominator is," Lieberman said.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said  "The Israeli public wants me to continue leading the country and it wants me to build a coalition that will create three major changes domestically: more equal distribution of the national burden, affordable housing, and a change in the system of government. I am coming out of a long meeting with my partner, Avigdor Lieberman, and we agreed that in addition to security and diplomacy, we will focus the coalition talks on these three principles."

Shelly Yacimovich expressed disappointment in the Labor Party's results: "The final result - 15 seats - is maybe more than what anyone dreamt of a year and a half ago, but it is disappointing. .. I congratulate Yair Lapid but I call on him not to join a government led by Netanyahu, which intends to dismantle the middle class. If [his party] participates in an alternative coalition – I will help him. If not – I will lead, along with my excellent faction – a combative opposition, never seen before. "

After 99 percent of the votes had been counted Wednesday morning - excluding soldiers and prisoners - the left and right blocs were neck and neck. Likud-Beiteinu has emerged as the strongest party, with Yesh Atid second having won 19 Knesset seats. Labor is third with 15 seats. The number of votes needed for a party to pass the electoral threshold and enter the Knesset is 73,000. This number was 67,500 in Israel's last elections, which took place in 2009. Overall, voter turnout was 66.6 percent.

In this election, for the first time, the public was able to follow the counting of ballots in real time on the government’s Memshal Zamin website, or using a special cell phone app.

Avigdor Lieberman speaks to reporters on Jan. 23, 2012. Credit: Emil Salman

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