Israeli Ex-defense Chief Lieberman to Return to the Knesset After Resigning

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked reiterates her party chair Naftali Bennett's threat that if he doesn't receive the defense portfolio, Habayit Hayehudi 'must set a date for elections'

Lieberman in Jerusalem, yesterday.
Emil Salman

Chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, who announced on Wednesday his resignation as defense minister, submitted on Thursday his resignation letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although he said he hoped to retake his seat as a member of the Knesset.

Lieberman's return will come at the expense of Yulia Malinovsky, who is currently a Knesset member for Yisrael Beiteinu.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, of the Habayit Hayehudi party, reiterated in her interview on Army Radio Thursday that if Netanyahu does not appoint the party's chairman Naftali Bennett as defense minister, the party will leave the coalition.

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"The right thing to do is to give Bennett the defense portfolio," she said, adding that if this doesn't happen, "Habayit Hayehudi must set a date for elections."

Lieberman and Bennett, 2016.
Gil Eliyahu

Shaked was also asked about an item that appeared in the religious Hebrew newspaper Yated Ne'eman, which reported that Shaked could get on Netanyahu's Likud party list for the elections.

"This is funny," she responded. "I am in Habayit Hayehudi and I will stay there. The government has reached its final days, and if we need to call for [early] elections, then we will do it for the party," she said.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Netanyahu held consultations in his Jerusalem residence on the question of whether to call early elections or accept Bennett's ultimatum. 

His office says Netanyahu has not made a decision on the matter.