The government is on the brink of collapse and its activities are at a complete standstill, Labor Party chairman and opposition leader Isaac Herzog charged Monday, in response to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s announcement earlier of a breakup of the Knesset list his Yisrael Beytenu party shared with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party.
Herzog criticized Liberman for remaining in the government and called on Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to pull their parties, Hatnua and Yesh Atid, out of the coalition, in order to establish a new government with Labor.
“This is a government that has frozen its dealings and thus is on the verge of complete dissolution,” Herzog said.
“After expressing his lack of confidence in the prime minister, Liberman should have left the government at once. I also suggest that Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid leave the government and join us for a great political move that would provide the public with an alternative path.”
The Labor chairman also condemned Liberman’s public spat with Netanyahu over the latter’s restrained response to the escalating rocket fire in Gaza, and said the foreign minister cannot “disguise himself as a moderate any longer.”
Fellow Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev addressed the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu split as well, saying the move forced Israel’s citizens to choose between an “extreme right-wing nationalist ideology” and the “Labor Party’s vision, which advocates a separation from the Palestinians along with a determined fight against terrorism.”
Following his announcement, Liberman told reporters that recently, longstanding differences between him and Netanyahu had become “essential, and no longer allow the existence of a shared framework.” He added that “the partnership didn’t work in the elections, and it didn’t work after the elections,” but that the two parties had maintained it so long as they did not have major differences on policy.
The move has been expected for some time. Over the past year, Liberman’s efforts to merge his party with Likud, supported by Likud chairman Netanyahu, have been rebuffed by the Likud rank and file in a series of votes in the Central Committee. The move was opposed by many senior Likud power brokers who did not want to see the formation of a new, organized power base within the party.
Liberman’s move to separate from the Likud is also tied to his party’s poor showing in recent polls. The party chairman believes that Yisrael Beytenu was hurt by the decision to run jointly with the Likud, shrinking its Knesset representation from 15 seats to 11.
The move is unlikely to destabilize the coalition in the short term. A top Yisrael Beytenu official, Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum, insisted the party did not seek to destabilize the government.
“We don’t think this is the time to split up the coalition and weaken it,” Kirschenbaum told Army Radio on Monday morning. “We want to strengthen the State of Israel.
Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report