Netanyahu Vows He Won't Establish Unity Government After Israeli Election

'It's my obligation to Likud voters' to set up a right-wing government, premier says after Lieberman announced he won't endorse him in such a case

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in his residence in Jerusalem, July 23, 2019.
Marc Israel Sellem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday that he would not establish a unity government after the September 17 election.

In an article in the Likud-aligned Israel Hayom newspaper, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that he must establish a right-wing government: "It is my obligation to Likud voters."

About two months ago, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman stated that he would try to compel Likud and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party into a unity government, thereby excluding ultra-Orthodox parties from the coalition. Lieberman said last week that his party will not endorse Netanyahu or Gantz as prime minister if they refuse to do so.

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"The first party to state that they support forming a broad national unity government will receive my endorsement to the president," Lieberman said.

On Saturday, Liebreman added that if Netanyahu refused to unite with Kahol Lavan, he will request that Likud present another candidate for prime minister. Following Lieberman's statements, the first 40 members of the Likud slate signed a declaration stating that they stand behind Netanyahu and will not replace him ahead of the election, at senior Likud member David Bitan's behest.

A poll released by Channel 12's "Meet the Press" program on Saturday showed that 59 percent of respondents said that they do not support a unity government of Likud, Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu. Of those polled, 29 percent supported it and 12 percent said they did not know.   

Netanyahu made a similar claim before Israel held its last election on April 9. However, when he saw that his negotiations to form a coalition were failing, he started making overtures to members of parties he vowed not to join forces with. In May, former Labor chief Avi Gabbay revealed that he and faction member Tal Russo both denied offers from Likud that they join the premier's party. There were also reports that the prime minister contacted rival Benny Gantz in an attempt to forge an agreement.