Liberman mocks ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, presents vision for next cabinet

Yisrael Beytenu head says Shas won’t be holding onto ministries of interior and housing, party’s Ariel Atias will be able to ‘travel the world’ as tourism minister

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Shas minister Ariel Atias arranges Avigdor Liberman's tie at the Knesset, July 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Shas minister Ariel Atias arranges Avigdor Liberman's tie at the Knesset, July 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The head of the Yisrael Beytenu party Avigdor Liberman derided ultra-Orthodox lawmakers and boasted that, after the coming elections, the Shas party would lose the Interior and Housing ministries and instead receive the lesser Tourism and National Infrastructure portfolios, according to a report in the Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Thursday.

Citing an interview Liberman conducted with the ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpacha that’s due to be published on Friday, Yedioth reported on Liberman’s purported vision for the divvying up of government offices after Israelis go to the polls on January 22.

Liberman’s comments regarding the Interior and Housing ministries echoed statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu campaign launch event earlier this week — to the effect that the authority to decide on housing and lands would not remain in “sectarian hands.”

The recently resigned former foreign minister said that Israel’s top diplomatic post would be his to reoccupy as soon as his legal troubles were over — the state prosecution was reportedly set to indict him on Thursday on corruption charges — and claimed that Shas should be happy managing national infrastructure, which he termed “a very nice portfolio.”

“I can assure you, we don’t just take, we give as well,” he said, before aiming a barb at Shas’s Ariel Atias, the housing and communications minister who’s third on the ultra-Orthodox party’s slate, behind Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri.

“I think Atias wasn’t bad at all as a minister, both in Communications and Housing, but we’ll be much better,” he said. “Atias is well-suited to the position of tourism minister — he can travel the world.”

Deri, the charismatic ex-convict who’s staging a political comeback after years of being out of the limelight, didn’t escape Liberman’s lethal tongue either.

“Aryeh shouldn’t be a minister,” Liberman said wryly. “It is beneath him — he should be more than that.”

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