Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman have secretly agreed to “rotate” the prime ministership between them should their new joint list win January’s elections, Israel’s Channel 2 claimed Thursday night. Aides to both men swiftly denied the claim.
The TV station’s news analyst Amnon Abramovich said their agreement provides for Netanyahu to serve as prime minister for the first three years of the next government, and Liberman to switch places with him in year four.
Abramovich said this clause in their agreement was not meant to have been publicized. What was meant to become public knowledge, he said, was simply that Liberman would have the choice of any cabinet position he wished.
Their agreement also includes a commitment by Netanyahu not to relinquish the Golan Heights to Syria, Abramovich said.
As Netanyahu and Liberman completed a press conference on Thursday night to announce that their respective Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties would run together on a joint list in January, a reporter asked them whether they had agreed to rotate the prime ministership. Neither man responded, and they left the room without answering any questions. Twenty minutes later, however, spokespeople for both men denied the report.
Such an agreement would represent a major concession — and rather hard to fathom, at that — by Netanyahu to Liberman, since the Likud currently has 27 seats to Yisrael Beytenu’s 17, and polls have shown Netanyahu on course to smoothly regain the premiership.
One precedent of sharing the premiership exists in Israeli electoral history. After the center-left Alignment bloc and Likud party stalemated in the 1984 national elections, Alignment leader Shimon Peres and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir were forced to form a national unity government.
The two leaders split the four-year term with a rotating premiership. Peres served as prime minister from 1984 to 1986, and Shamir took the reins from 1986 to 1988.