Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and leading Shas party figure Aryeh Deri swapped barbs on Monday over the latter’s calls for pre-election coalition talks.
Early in the day, Liberman published on his Facebook page an open letter to the Shas leadership, and Deri in particular, in which he expressed scorn for recent public pleas from Deri to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for coalition talks ahead of the elections, an offer that the prime minister has rejected.
Liberman said the calls were just empty gestures designed to give the ultra-Orthodox Shas an alibi for joining with the left against the future Netanyahu government.
“You know very well that no candidate for prime minister will hold negotiations before an election,” Liberman wrote.
However, Deri quickly responded saying both Netanyahu and Liberman had closed coalition deals before elections in the past.
“Leave out the stories and the spin,” Deri wrote in a statement. “In the 2009 government you signed a coalition deal with Netanyahu before the elections.”
“Netanyahu also closed a deal with Shas at the time,” Deri continued. “You must read the newspapers, just like me, that are full of headlines about how you prefer a center-left government with Livni and Lapid. So I call on you again, let’s sit down together today and lay down the guidelines for the government. We have what to talk about.”
There is little love lost between the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and Yisrael Beytenu, which is dominated by mostly nonreligious Russian-speakers, and the two parties have been sniping at each other in the run-up to elections. Last week, Shas unveiled an ad that all but accused Liberman’s party of seeking to allow instant Jewish conversions by fax.
Liberman used the Facebook post to protested the “humiliating” nature of the TV spot, which depicts a Russian non-Jewish bride receiving a last-minute conversion via a fax machine, and said that it is an offense to many immigrants and the general public.
“I and my companions do not reject any person or party from sitting in the government just because of who they are, and certainly not you and your peers,” Liberman wrote to Deri. “However, I cannot but be angry at the propaganda broadcast that I allow myself to call a horror movie.”
Yisrael Beytenu is running on a joint list with the ruling Likud party.