Arye Dery, the interior minister and head of the Shas party, recently approached Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of the opposition Yisrael Beiteinu party, in an effort to lobby the party to join the government, Lieberman told members of his Knesset faction Monday. He said he rejected the overture out of hand.
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"Interior Minister Dery came to me recently with the suggestion to consider joining the government. He said that he had spoken with a number of figures in the coalition on the matter," Lieberman said. Referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said: "I made it very clear that I have nothing personal against Netanyahu but rather that it's a disagreement over principle."
Lieberman said there were ten basic policy issues that would have to be changed before his right-wing party would join the government, including the elimination of Hamas' control of the Gaza Strip, the resumption of targeted killings of terrorist figures, government support for a pending bill relating to the death penalty for terrorists and the disqualification of parties and Knesset members supporting terrorism.
Other principles include approval of 2,000 housing units in Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, with top priority to Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim; the construction of hostel housing for older immigrants; reinstatement of the law requiring the draft of larger numbers of ultra-Orthodox males; and reforms to make conversion to Judaism easier. If his principles are not accepted, Lieberman said, "there's nothing to talk about."
Lieberman also said his party would be presenting the Knesset with its draft legislation, which the coalition decided not to take a position on, and which would make it easier to impose the death penalty on terrorists (although in practice no such death sentence has ever been carried out).
"We are celebrating Purim this week," he said, and added, in reference to the protagonists from the Purim story: "This government dresses up all year as a national and right-wing government even though the distance between it and a genuinely national government is like the distance between the Jewish Mordechai and the wicked Haman."