Lieberman Says 'The Netanyahu Era Has Ended,' He's 'In Denial'

Right-wing leaders are 'dreaming of how to form a government without him,' Yisrael Beiteinu chairman says ahead of Israel's March 2 election

Avigdor Lieberman, center, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu, party, walks during election campaign tour in a shopping mall in the Port city of Ashdod, Israel, on Friday, February 14, 2020.
Tsafrir Abayov,AP

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said on Saturday "the Netanyahu era has ended," adding the right-wing bloc that had pledged to back the Israeli prime minister is now preparing for "what happens after he leaves."

Benjamin Netanyahu "is in denial" and "will one day realize it's time" to end his political career, Lieberman told a town hall meeting in the central town of Shoham, as Israelis gear up for the third election round in less than a year on March 2.

After the last two election rounds, Netanyahu's Likud party and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan both failed to secure a majority and form a government. Lieberman, a former ally of Netanyahu, refuses to back him. Negotiations for a unity government have also failed.

Prominent right-wing politicians Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of Yamina are "dreaming of how to get rid of Netanyahu, how to form a government without him," Lieberman said.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh spoke at an event in Be'er Sheva and signaled to a continued willingness for the Arab-majority slate to be involved in government talks. Odeh said he doesn't know whether Gantz and Netanyahu will form a unity government after the March vote, but in any other case, "there is no doubt it will be impossible to form a government without the Joint List."

Lieberman also reiterated that he doesn't oppose joining a government with the newly formed left-wing slate Labor-Gesher-Meretz. "There's no more Meretz," Lieberman said of the party considered most progressive out of the three. "Meretz is now part of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz bloc. Once there's no more Meretz, it makes it much easier."

Gesher is headed by former Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker Orli Levi-Abekasis, who quit Lieberman's party in May 2016 in protest of coalition talks with Netanyahu.

Kahol Lavan is now working to find a way to form a coalition after March 2 without the backing of the Joint List, hoping to meet the conditions Lieberman set out for any future coalition talks. A party source assessed that if Kahol Lavan ends up having more Knesset seats than Likud, some right-wing parties would join a Gantz-led government.