Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday expressed deep skepticism over peace-making efforts and said his party, Yisrael Beytenu, would block any attempt by the government to institute a settlement construction freeze in the West Bank.
In a press conference, Liberman cited the Israeli government’s 2010 settlement freeze as evidence of the futility of such a move.
“After that 10-month freeze, which we agreed to, after the time was up and there were no results, I said I would oppose any attempt [to declare] a freeze, inside the settlement blocs and outside them,” Liberman said. “We’re prepared to make gestures, but they can’t only be one-sided and Israeli. All of Yisrael Beytenu will starkly oppose any attempt to reinstitute a [settlement] freeze.”
Israel’s incoming housing minister, the Jewish Home’s Uri Ariel, on Sunday said he too opposed any settlement freeze as “dreadful,” and that he would authorize continued building in Judea and Samaria.
Yisrael Beytenu members are currently part of a joint Knesset faction with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, and any differences between Liberman and Netanyahu on diplomatic and other issues could spell the end of the alliance between their parties.
But despite this stance, which may one day put him in direct opposition to Netanyahu, Liberman on Monday said that, for the time being, his party had no intention of breaking away from Likud. “At the moment, it’s not on the agenda, but it’s a future possibility,” he said.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader acknowledged that certain elements in both his party and the Likud party were unhappy with the alliance, but clarified that he and Netanyahu had every intention of preserving their joint faction.
The statement came a day after Channel 10 reported that Likud and Yisrael Beytenu would end their affair as a joint faction and go back to their old lives as separate entities in the nascent government.
The report was formally denied by Likud, but sources in the party were quoted as saying it was accurate but that no date had been set for the separation.
Liberman on Monday also addressed the issue of primary elections, saying he was glad his party was the first to do away with the system.
“When I hear the discussions held by the parties, I see that they are all talking about how to cancel the primary system. It’s one of the systems that do not suit the State of Israel and harms political stability. Today it’s clear to everyone. Even those who have not said it outright have discussed it in informal settings,” said Liberman.