Lieberman Threatens to Kill Negotiation Talks, Send Israel to New Election

The former defense minister says he won't agree to join Netanyahu's government if contentious draft bill isn't promoted, warns of PM's 'personality cult'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Avigdor Lieberman with MK Miki Zohar and Mayor Yehiel Zohar in the Negev city of Netivot, May 24, 2019.
Avigdor Lieberman with MK Miki Zohar and Mayor Yehiel Zohar in the Negev city of Netivot, May 24, 2019. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman went after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday after coalition talks hit a snag, writing that "[being] right-wing isn't about a personality cult, it's about values." 

Lieberman was implying that Netanyahu is trying to form a government at any price, and willing to forgo legislation and key issues that matter to many Israeli voters.

Lieberman reiterated that if his demand to promote a law that would force Israel's ultra-Orthodox community to serve in the Israeli military won't be met, he would prefer to see Israel headed for a new election. 

>> Read more: This hot potato threatens Netanyahu's government even before it's formed | Explained ■ Israel's ex-Defense Minister Lieberman could now topple Netanyahu | Analysis 

Responding to a claim by Netanyahu's Likud party that Lieberman is preventing the premier from establishing a right-wing government, the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman wrote in a Facebook post: "During the election campaign and after the election we said in a clear and public manner that we would only support Netanyahu as the candidate to form the government, and this was our recommendation to the president. We rejected every offer we got from different entities to tread other paths. Today, too, we say loud and clear that we won't recommend anyone else for prime minister." 

Despite this expression of support Lieberman added that his demand to push the draft law isn't new, so he doesn't understand why "the Likud chooses to slander Yisrael Beiteinu" instead of pressuring the religious parties and chiefly the main opponent to the bill - Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. If the latter doesn't fold, Lieberman wrote, "we will go to elections again, and the people will determine whether they want a right-wing government or a Haredi government." 

On Friday Lieberman penned a different post in which he attacked Likud. "If we have to go to elections again, it's only because of the failing, arrogant and sloppy manner in which the [coalition] negotiations are being handled." 

Sources in the Likud estimated this week that Lieberman's firm opposition to any change in the wording of the bill is meant to blow up negotiations, which Netanyahu has until Wednesday to formalize.

The prime minister earlier this week hit back, with a Likud statement saying that the former defense minister "is using all sorts of excuses to prevent the establishment of a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu, which could lead to the formation of a left-wing government." 

Netanyahu is struggling to form a government, and has therefore asked to establish one that will be made up only of 60 Knesset members, so that he doesn't have to gain Lieberman's support.

But the Yisrael Beiteinu chair clarified this week that his party members will oppose such a move, making it impossible for Netanyahu to gain a majority in the Knesset. Kulanu chair Moshe Kahlon clarified that he, too, won't support a coalition made up of 60 Knesset members because he believes it will be difficult for the government to function in such a way and would cause it to quickly dissolve.