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Again likely kingmaker, Liberman vows to do everything to prevent 4th elections

Yisrael Beytenu leader, who twice refused to join right-wing Netanyahu government, says party will ‘make a decision one way or the other’

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at the party headquarters in Modi'in, on elections night, March 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/ Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at the party headquarters in Modi'in, on elections night, March 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/ Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman vowed Tuesday to do “everything” to prevent fourth elections, as emerging results indicated his party could again be in the kingmaker position with seven seats.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu appeared poised for an electoral victory, with about 90 percent of votes counted, but still short of a 61-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset, meaning he would require the support of another party or defectors from opposition parties to form a coalition.

“As we promised voters, we will do everything to prevent fourth elections,” Liberman told reporters outside his home in the settlement of Nokdim. “We intend to make a decision one way or the other.”

He charged that the parties supporting Netanyahu constituted not a right-wing bloc, but an “ultra-Orthodox-messianic bloc.”

Liberman said his party would convene later this week to make a decision.

“We will make the decision according to what’s best for Israel and with our promises to voters,” he added.

Liberman vowed he would not joint a Likud-led government that includes ultra-Orthodox parties.

“We won’t move a millimeter from what we promised our voters,” he said.

Photo composition (L to R): Blue and White chief Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Yonatan Sindel, Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

After the elections of last April, Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led government over disagreements on legislation relating to the ultra-Orthodox military draft. And following the next national vote in September, he said he would only join a unity coalition of Likud and Blue and White, but the two parties failed to reach an agreement.

On Friday Liberman said that he would not back any candidate to become prime minister unless they meet his basic demands for a liberal Zionist government.

With some 90 percent percent of ballots tallied, Likud held 29.35% of the votes, equal to around 36 Knesset seats, which could represent the party’s strongest ever showing as Israelis looked to end a deadlock that has left the country without a fully functioning government for over a year.

Top rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party was trailing with 26.34% of the votes, representing some 32 seats, which would be the relatively new faction’s worst showing in three tries.

The non-final tallies gave ultra-Orthodox Shas and UTJ ten and seven seats, respectively, while religious right-wing Yamina was sitting on about six seats, placing the right-wing bloc on 59 seats, two seats short of a 61-seat majority.

In the opposition, the Arab-led Joint List was predicted to garner around 15 seats, while the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance was getting seven.

The numbers are likely to shift as more votes are counted.

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