Lieberman: National Union Will Join Coalition if Guidelines Remain Unchanged

The National Union, which has been invited to participate in coalition negotiations with the Likud today, is expected to express its readiness to join the new government, as long as it follows the basic principles of the "Gandhi-Peres government," as party head Avigdor Lieberman refers to the 15th Knesset's ruling coalition.

"We see no reason to sit in opposition, but we will not compromise our principles," Lieberman said at a press conference last night.

Lieberman's reference to a Gandhi-Peres government is a sardonic reference to Sharon's rejection of Lieberman as a coalition partner, given that the hawkish Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi served in the last government under Sharon, together with dovish Shimon Peres.

The main reason for the press conference, however, was to refute rumors that Lieberman intends to resign from the Knesset. "Rumors of my death are premature and exaggerated," he said.

But while the rumors may be premature, that doesn't make them wrong. If the National Union joins the government and Lieberman is appointed a minister, he can be expected to resign from the Knesset to make room for Eliezer Cohen, No. 4 on the Yisrael Beiteinu list. Such a move would restore the inner balance within the National Union bloc, which includes the formerly independent Yisrael Beiteinu and Moledet parties, since Yisrael Beiteinu had lost one seat to Moledet candidate Aryeh Eldad.

Indeed, political activists expect that even if National Union remains in opposition, Lieberman will at some point resign from the Knesset out of lack of interest in parliamentary life.

If Lieberman were to resign from the Knesset, he is likely to remain at the head of the party, which he would then try to sell to Russian immigrants. But many Yisrael Beiteinu activists see a danger in deepening their hold on the Russian-speaking population following Yisrael b'Aliyah head Natan Sharansky's decision to vacate that political corner in his merger with the Likud.

There is tension within the movements that comprise the National Union. Some party activists consider Lieberman himself to be an obstacle to the party's entrance into the government, despite a verbal demonstration of party unity.