Likud officials sharply criticized Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Saturday, after the Yisrael Beiteinu leader said he did not "rule out" joining either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Labor's head Isaac Herzog after the election.
"Lieberman's comments about his willingness to sit in a Herzog-led government prove that voting for Lieberman could shift votes from the right to the left and lead to a left-wing government," the Likud said in a statement. "It is clear that anyone who wants a strong and big government headed by Netanyahu, based on the right and center-right bloc, must vote this time for the Likud."
Regarding Lieberman's criticism that the Israeli leadership was "dragged by the other side" during last summer's war in Gaza, the Likud said that "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu oversaw Operation Protective Edge responsibly and with determination, together with the defense minister and the IDF chief of staff, and was not dragged into different and strange offers." The operation in Gaza, the statement added, was conducted in a way that placed the utmost importance on "protecting the security of the country and the lives of citizens and soldiers."
Likud MK Yariv Levin echoed the criticism, calling Lieberman an "extreme leftist who supports Ahmad Tibi," on Channel 2's Meet the Press.
Yisrael Beiteinu said in response to the Likud's statement that "the citizens of Israel are interested in hearing opinions and not slander, and we will continue to talk to the point about how to keep the State of Israel as a strong Jewish country, and will not be dragged into unnecessary confrontations."
'We will run independently'
Lieberman said earlier on Saturday at a public event in Tel Aviv that Yisrael Beitenu "absolutely does not belong to the 'anyone but Bibi' camp."
He praised the recently announced merger between Herzog and Tzipi Livni, saying he was in favor of large political frameworks - but at the same time called the move misguided. "They were speaking of rotations and constellations, instead of discussing essence and content," said Lieberman, referring to the announcement by the Labor and Hatnua parties that if Herzog attains premiership in the upcoming elections, he will step down after two years and let Livni fill the role for the remainder of the term.
"In every round of elections held since the establishing of Yisrael Beitenu in 1999 it was proven that its power is expanding, we always have been growing, and we will run independently in these elections, in the hope that we will continue to grow, also in comparison to what we achieved in 2009," said Lieberman.
Meanwhile, MK Dany Danon - who is competing for the Likud's leadership - addressed recent rumors of a possible Likud-Habayit Hayehudi merger. Speaking at a public event in Netanya, Danon said he would ward off any attempt to bring together the two parties ahead of the upcoming elections.
"The irresponsible merger being discussed by certain parties within the Likud will lead us to lose votes, and even to lose the reins of power." Assurances that such a move would yield a larger number of chairs in the Knesset, said Danon, "are promises as worthless as the ones made to us two years ago, ahead of the merger with Lieberman." "I will stop any attempts at mergers that will hurt the Likud party, and the power of the national camp," said Danon, referring to an umbrella term used to describe the Israeli Zionist right wing parties
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