Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation on Thursday evening, a day after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and send Israel to a new election on September 17.
Netanyahu went after rival Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, who refused to budge over the draft law – the contentious issue that caused Netanyahu to fail in the negotiations he held over the past several weeks to form a government.
The premier said that Lieberman "is obsessed with toppling right-wing government. Whenever he can, that's what he does and he if he will be able to he will try to do it again with this election."
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He claimed that Israel's right wing cannot trust Lieberman, who he called "drunk with power" and said was only focused on promoting his own ulterior motives.
The former defense minister got everything he wanted, including the contentious draft bill, "but Lieberman is a serial saboteur," Netanyahu added.
The prime minister also presented a map of the State of Israel that he received as a present from Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and top adviser who is toiling on a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu said that Kushner gave him the map during his visit to Israel, which began on Wednesday.
The map had been altered to include the Golan Heights as part of Israel's territory, to signify the U.S. administration's recognition of Israeli sovereignty there earlier this year. Pointing to it while he spoke, Netanyahu noted that Trump signed the map and scrawled the word "nice" next to the Golan Heights.
"I had a wonderful meeting with Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Eliot Engel," the premier added
Kushner and Greenblatt came to Israel from Jordan to discuss the peace plan and the economic conference scheduled to take place in Bahrain next month.
The two arrived during a deep political crisis, with Israelis expected to return to the polls two weeks before Netanyahu's pre-indictment hearing on a series of corruption charges against him on October 2 and 3.
Coalition negotiations had been in a deadlock, caused by friction between Lieberman and the Hassidic faction of ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism. At the source is the draft bill Lieberman submitted last term, which would require yeshiva students, who are currently exempt from Israel's otherwise mandatory conscription, to draft to the Israeli military.
Also Thursday, the first election polls were published, projecting that Lieberman's party will rise in the September election. A Kan public broadcaster poll saw Yisrael Beiteinu emerging with eight Knesset seats (three more than it got in the April 9 election), whereas the Likud was projected to maintain its 35 seats.
A different poll published by Channel 13 News gave Lieberman's party nine Knesset seats, and showed that Likud would gain one more Knesset seat after it merged with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party.
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