Elections 2015

Liberman jabs at ‘hysterical’ Likud, Jewish Home

FM dismisses ruling party’s ‘laughable’ accusations that voting Yisrael Beytenu is akin to supporting a leftist government

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman on Sunday accused his erstwhile partners in the Likud party of being “hysterical, just like the Jewish Home [party],” for asserting that a vote for the hawkish foreign minister’s party in the March 2015 elections would bring about a left-wing government.

“When [Likud MK Ofir] Akunis, who lives in north Tel Aviv, says voting for Liberman, who resides in [the West Bank settlement of] Nokdim, is like voting for a leftist government, I think all you can really do is laugh,” Liberman told Israel Radio.

He further stated that his party would imbue any government it joined with a “national” agenda, and said he expected Yisrael Beytenu to gain 15 Knesset seats in the coming elections, about five more than recent polls have projected.

On Saturday, Liberman said his party was not looking for political mergers, but also was not ruling out joining a government coalition headed by the Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the joint Labor-Hatnua list. He also jabbed at his former ally Benjamin Netanyahu, hinting the prime minister had not taken a firm enough stance against Hamas in last summer’s war.

“During Protective Edge I said we mustn’t be drawn in, but we were [drawn in], we didn’t initiate,” Liberman said. “I [told the cabinet]: Go all the way, don’t be wusses,” he added, using the old Hebrew slang word laflaf, which generally means nerd.

The statements underlined the increasingly bitter rivalry between Liberman, who used to be Netanyahu’s bureau chief, and the prime minister, which could impact coalition-building prospects in the aftermath of the March 17 elections.

The Likud party responded to Liberman’s remarks Saturday in a statement, saying Netanyahu “managed the operation firmly and responsibly, together with the defense minister and chief of staff, and wasn’t dragged by a variety of different suggestions.”

“The operation was governed with a broad view of safeguarding the security of the state and the lives of the citizens and IDF soldiers,” the party said.

Netanyahu’s party then took a swipe at its former ally, which ran with Likud in a single list in the January 2013 elections but subsequently severed the alliance just before Operation Protective edge began in July 2014.

“Liberman’s remarks concerning his willingness to sit in a government led by Herzog prove that a vote for Liberman is likely to shift votes from the right to the left and bring about the formation of a left-wing government,” the Likud party said.

The foreign minister, for his part, hinted at tough disagreements with the prime minister, particularly during Operation Protective Edge, but added that he was not in the “anyone but Bibi” camp, a reference to a growing sentiment among rival politicians who have been calling on the public to vote for anyone but Netanyahu, no matter what faults the prime minister’s rivals may have.

His remarks came amid reports that the Yesh Atid party, headed by Yair Lapid, was courting both him and the leader of the newly founded Kulanu party, Moshe Kahlon, a popular former Likud minister, for a possible union.

On Thursday, Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen revealed that Lapid and Liberman held talks in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of a merger deal between their parties, adding that Kahlon was considering joining forces with them.

However, both Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu later each issued denials of the reports, insisting that there were no merger negotiations between the two parties.

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