Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said Saturday he was confident Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would push the long-time Israeli leader aside if he has no clear path to forming a government after next month’s elections.
“There are a lot of deserving people in Likud and whoever they decide to choose in [Netanyahu’s] place will be acceptable to be me,” Liberman was quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster during a cultural event in the central town of Shoham.
“If Netanyahu doesn’t have 61 recommendations after the round of meetings with the president, it’s clear he’ll be replaced the next day,” the Yisrael Beytenu chief added.
Following the elections, all parties elected to the Knesset will consult with President Reuven Rivlin on who should be tasked with forming the government. The president will then select the lawmaker he believes has the best shot at putting together a coalition and is not legally bound to choose whoever has the largest number of recommendations.
Netanyahu received the support of a majority of Knesset members following elections in April and was tasked with forming a government, but was unable to do so after Liberman refused to join his prospective coalition unless a bill formalizing exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students was passed without changes.
Coming up one seat short of a majority with Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu pushed through a vote to dissolve the Knesset and call fresh elections rather than have another lawmaker get a shot at assembling a coalition. It was the first time in Israel’s history that elections failed to result in a government.
Recent opinion polls have forecast that together with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, Likud will again come up short of the 61 seats needed for a ruling majority without Yisrael Beytenu.
Liberman has vowed to force a unity government of Yisrael Beytenu, Likud and Blue and White if neither Netanyahu or the latter party’s leader Benny Gantz are able to form a coalition without him after the September 17 elections.
Yisrael Beytenu is consistently polling around 10 seats, more than double its current tally and setting it up as a potential coalition kingmaker.
Earlier this month, Liberman said he would turn to another Likud lawmaker if Netanyahu spurns his proposed unity government, floating Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein as a possibility.
Edelstein distanced himself from the proposal and threw his support behind Netanyhau, who insinuated Liberman and Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid were planning a “shady plot” to push him from office.
A day after Liberman’s remarks, Likud’s top 40 candidates signed a pledge giving their unequivocal backing to Netanyahu and vowing not to replace him as party leader following the elections.