The alliance between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu will not last beyond the January 22 election, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman told Haaretz, according to an article published Sunday.
Haaretz reported that Liberman said, through a spokesperson, that the two factions will go their separate ways “immediately” after the election, and expressed doubt that the two parties would “sit together” or “work together.”
However, Liberman on Sunday said that comments from his spokesperson were taken out of context by Haaretz. He said that he didn’t speak directly to Haaretz, and there was “a big difference, like heaven and earth” between the report and reality.
“We are aligned in a coalition and the agreement is still in place,” he told Israeli Radio, after the article was widely reported in the Hebrew media. Liberman added that “a month after the elections, we have to decide how to proceed with the agreement,” but that was always part of the unity arrangement.
After the elections, the two parties are to divide the Knesset seats they won by running together according to the specifications of their unity agreement, with Yisrael Beytenu receiving one seat for every two Likud seats.
According to Haaretz, the unity agreement between the parties stipulated that Yisrael Beytenu would support Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister throughout the next Knesset term.
The Likud-Beytenu alliance is expected to garner around 33-35 Knesset seats according to the most recent polls, easily the largest party but significantly below the 40-50 that was predicted when the alliance was announced at the end of October.
The alliance has been hampered by the rise of the Jewish Home party under newcomer Naftali Bennett, who analysts say has been siphoning away the more right-wing and religious voters from Likud-Beytenu, and by the legal problems of Liberman himself. In December he resigned from his post as foreign minister, days before he was indicted on fraud and breach of trust charges, which could bar him from holding a ministerial position or public office if convicted.
“I’m not sure I wanted to see the two parties sit together during the 19th Knesset,” a Likud minister told Haaretz. “There are still quite a few differences between us.”
Another Likud minister alleged that Liberman “took us for a ride.”
“It is now clear that he got more out of the deal than we did. While he is down only two seats from his current tally, we stand to lose six seats and remain with only 21,” said the unnamed minister.