Lieberman, Again Israel Election Kingmaker, Would Only Support PM Candidate Who 'Commits to Unity Gov't'

Maintaining firm standing in polls, former defense minister minister says 'Netanyahu is the same as Gantz'

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman and former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Tel Aviv, Israel, July 30, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that his party seeks a national-liberal unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and main opposition party Kahol Lavan, and would not support either unless they agree to such a government. 

Lieberman maintains his strength in the polls and is predicted to win 10 Knesset seats in the September 17 election, according to a recent survey conducted by Channel 12 News.

Likud is neck-and-neck with Kahol Lavan, with both projected to win 30 Knesset seats, according to the poll. 

>> Read more: By boycotting Lieberman, the purist left cuts off its nose to spite its face | Opinion ■ Lieberman is laying a trap for Netanyahu | Analysis 

The poll gives Hayamin Hehadash and the Union of Right-Wing Parties, running together as the United Right with former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked heading the alliance, 12 Knesset seats. The Joint List, a the recently reconstituted coalition of four Arab-majority parties, would win 11 seats according to the Channel 12 News survey.

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party is projected to receive eight seats and the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party seven.

The newly formed Democratic Union party, an alliance between Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Democratic Israel party, is projected to receive seven seats, while the Labor Party is expected to get only five.  

Both Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut and the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party will fail to pass the 3.25-percent electoral threshold, the poll showed.  

Lieberman said he is not addressing who will lead the government, but rather the nature of the government that will be formed.

The former defense minister slammed Netanyahu, saying the prime minister would do anything to obscure the true purpose of the do-over September election.

“Likud has lost its way. [The party] lacks ideology or principles, it all revolves around a personality cult. It seems we have chosen a god to rule us. Likud is no different from Kahol Lavan, Netanyahu is the same as [Kahol Lavan leader Benny] Gantz: Both would prefer a narrow government, including the ultra-Orthodox parties and Labor,” Lieberman said.      

Lieberman promised to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin after the election that the task of forming the government be assigned to “the first party leader to commit to a national unity government.”

“In the event Likud and Kahol Lavan support a narrow government, I wouldn’t recommend Netanyahu or Gantz,” Lieberman added.

Lieberman said that if his party joins the government, it would request the defense, as well as the immigration and absorption, health and public security portfolios.

“There’s no need to say a lot about Israel’s health system, except that it’s very sick. The same grandmother who lay in the hospital corridor in 1999 is still there, and nothing has changed. On the contrary, the health system has deteriorated over the past few years, and the one responsible for that is Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who tried to tailor a public service [only] for a certain sector [in Israeli society], Lieberman said, in a reference to Litzman’s Haredi community.    

In late May, a new election was called after Netanyahu failed to form a government after the April 9 election. He failed to bridge differences between the ultra-Orthodox parties and Lieberman, who were at odds over the conscription of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, thereby missing the final deadline for presenting a new government.

After the Knesset voted to dissolve itself, the prime minister accused Lieberman of being “obsessed” with toppling Netanyahu’s government.