Lieberman Says Will Ask Netanyahu's Party for Alternative Candidate if He Rejects Unity Government

Public opinion poll shows 59 percent of Israeli voters don’t support a broad coalition with Likud, Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu following September's election

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, June 2019.
Emil Salman

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Saturday that he believes Israel's ruling party should present an alternative candidate should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fail to form a government after the September 17 election.

Speaking on Channel 12's "Meet the Press" program, Lieberman said that he is "certain that if the Likud party understands that Netanyahu is incapable of forming the next government, it will suggest an alternative candidate."

Lieberman added that if Netanyahu and [Kahol Lavan Chairman] Benny Gantz refuse to form a broad unity government, "I'll approach Likud lawmakers and tell them to bring someone that will agree to such a government."

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When asked which Likud lawmakers are possible candidates for the job, Lieberman said that "Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is definitely a worthy candidate."

Bashing Netanyahu, Lieberman said "My heart goes out to him. I feel sorry for him having to lie I belong to the left wing. It seems time, stress and tension have taken their toll on him."

Lieberman invited Netanyahu to a televised confrontation, adding that a senior Likud minister apologized to him for attacking him in public by saying he belongs to the left wing. According to Lieberman, the official said he would be subjected to yelling and shouting if he doesn't badmouth Lieberman.

Lieberman rejected Likud's claim that he seeks rotation for the prime minister's post with Gantz. "Am I disqualifying myself from ever being prime minister? No. I have the skills and experience required to be prime minister more than anybody else. But there is no rotation [agreement].  

Likud said in a tweet that “All the masks are off. Lieberman admits he’s working to oust Netanyahu, which is also the reason he dismantled at right-wing government and dragged the country to new election.”

“It is now clear that a vote for Lieberman is a vote to take down the Likud government, led by Netanyahu,” the party added.

A poll published Saturday on “Meet the Press” showed that 59 percent of Israeli voters don’t support a national unity government with Likud, Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu, while only 29 percent of respondents favor such a coalition.

Commenting on the poll, Lieberman said polls should be taken with a grain of salt.

"I believe the State of Israel needs a liberal-national broad government that includes Likud, Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu, there is no other option," he said.    

According to the poll, Netanyahu’s Likud would get 30 out of 120 Knesset seats in the September 17 vote, followed closely by Kahol Lavan with 29, down one seat from Channel 12’s last poll published Tuesday.

The United Right is projected 12 seats, Arab-majority alliance the Joint List 11 and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu 10. Ultra-Orthotox United Torah Judaism and Shas are projected eight and seven seats, respectively. Center-left alliance Democratic Union would get seven seats, leaving former Prime Minister Ehud Barak out of the next Knesset, and Labor-Gesher five.