Let Lapid hold the purse strings, Liberman suggests

Yisrael Beytenu head’s estranged deputy Danny Ayalon, by contrast, says Yesh Atid chief could make a fine foreign minister

Avigdor Liberman (left), and Benjamin Netanyahu sharing a private word in January 2013. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Avigdor Liberman (left), and Benjamin Netanyahu sharing a private word in January 2013. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigor Liberman called for Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to be given the finance minister post in the next government, saying he would be a natural fit.

Talking to party members Wednesday, the former foreign minister also said ultra-Orthodox parties would have to show some flexibility if they want to sit in the next government.

Liberman said Lapid, who partially campaigned on socio-economic issues, would be the right person to head the treasury, among the most coveted, but also thankless, cabinet spots.

“I think that Yair Lapid, who spoke so much about the middle class and the socio-economic protests, is the natural one to focus on internal issues and maybe take the Finance Ministry,” Liberman said, adding that he was just speculating.

By contrast, Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister who will not be returning to the Knesset having been booted off the Yisrael Beytenu slate by Liberman, said he thought Lapid could make a fine foreign minister. He told the English IBA News that Lapid’s lack of experience need not be a problem, comparing him to former Senator, now second-term president, Barack Obama, who had won the most important post in the world with relatively little experience.

Lapid, a former journalist and political greenhorn, surprised analysts by taking 19 seats in voting on Tuesday, becoming the second largest party and a veritable kingmaker in upcoming coalition talks.

While Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to stay on as prime minister, he may be forced to give Lapid his pick of ministerial posts in a bid to coax him into the coalition.

Lapid has said he would only join a government committed to sweeping economic changes and a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Shortly after the results were announced, Netanyahu called Lapid and offered to work together. “We have the opportunity to do great things together,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by Likud officials.

Liberman, number 2 on the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list, which took 31 seats, stepped down from his senior position late last year in the wake of a fraud and breach of trust indictment. He has said the move is temporary, indicating he would like to return to the Foreign Ministry position, considered one of three top posts, should he be cleared.

Liberman said the election results showed Israelis were hungry for something new, though not in his department.

“What’s clear is that the nation is asking for a dramatic change in everything related to the internal system more than anything else,” he said.

Saying he was sure Netanyahu would be tasked with forming the next government, which would be inclusive, Liberman added that the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism lists would have to change their ways if they wanted to join.

“I have no doubt that the Haredi parties understand that it’s impossible to continue this way as if nothing has happened, and they also need to be flexible,” he said.

Addressing his supporters early Wednesday, Netanyahu said the next government would be built on principles that include reforming the contentious system of granting draft exemptions to ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and the pursuit of a “genuine peace” with the Palestinians. He did not elaborate, but the message seemed aimed at Lapid.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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