Calling for Broad Coalition, Lieberman Says 'No Difference' Between Netanyahu and Gantz

'National emergency government' is needed to rescue Israel from 'deep trouble,' former defense minister tells public radio

Avigdor Lieberman speaks at the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 24, 2019.
Emil Salman

Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman called Sunday for a national unity government, arguing "there's no significant difference between" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition candidate Benny Gantz.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Lieberman, who refused last month to enter Netanyahu's coalition in a move that triggered a Knesset vote to dissolve it and announce new election on September 17, said Israel's economy and security are "in deep trouble," and "a broad, national emergency government" is needed in order to rescue the country.

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"Netanyahu was the one to appoint Gantz as [the Israel Defense Forces] Chief of Staff, and the one who praised Gantz the most for his conduct" as military commander during the 2014 Gaza war, Lieberman said. "As far as I'm concerned, either Netanyahu or Gantz" could lead Israel's next government.

Earlier in June, Lieberman said his party would promote a national unity government with Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Kahol Lavan, in a bid to exclude ultra-Orthodox parties, with whom Yisrael Beiteinu disagrees on drafting yeshiva students and other issues of religious influence on state affairs.

"We will aim for a government with Likud and with Kahol Lavan, and that will be an emergency government, a national-liberal government," former Defense Minister Lieberman told Channel 13 News. "We will do everything to limit the Haredim, so that they won't enter the government."

In a statement, Lieberman also said he would support either Netanyahu or Gantz for prime minister, according to whichever party that would get the most votes in the September ballot.

Kahol Lavan responded to Lieberman's statement, saying that if the former defense minister had reached this conclusion before his party voted to dissolve the Knesset, "the people of Israel would have been absolved from a redundant election."

Likud, meanwhile, blasted Lieberman for "saying he is willing to force a left-wing government. Whoever wishes to see a right-wing government must vote for us."

At the end of May, Netanyahu was unable to form a government after the April 9 elections. By the time the deadline for him to present a coalition arrived, the prime minister failed to bridge differences between the ultra-Orthodox parties and Lieberman.

The government voted to dissolve itself and return to the polls. After the Knesset vote, Netanyahu accused Lieberman of being "obsessed" with toppling the prime minister's right-wing government.