Liberman: Netanyahu has turned the Likud party into a personality cult

Yisrael Beytenu head says PM’s Likud is no longer party of the political right; will talk to Shaked if the former justice minister interested in joining him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman sign a coalition agreement in the Knesset on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman on Saturday said that the Likud party has become a personality cult around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is no longer a party of the right.

When asked about the disagreements between himself and the premier, Liberman charged: “Netanyahu wants to turn everything into a personality cult. The whole of the Likud is a personality cult.

“We have already said that we have no interest in joining the Likud party. It is a populist, half-Haredi party, one that sanctifies a personality cult,” Liberman said.

“Netanyahu was the one to disperse the Knesset in May for new elections. He did not pass it on to anyone else in Likud — it’s a personal matter for him,” he added.

Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s failure to form a government after the April elections stemmed from Liberman’s refusal to join a coalition unless a bill formalizing military exemptions for seminary students was passed without changes, a condition rejected by the premier’s ultra-Orthodox allies.

Netanyahu was tasked with putting together a coalition, but was unable to muster up a ruling majority before the deadline. Under Israeli law, if the prime minister-designate cannot form a government before the clock runs out, the mandate goes back to the president, who assigns another lawmaker to do so.

However, at Netanyahu’s instigation, the Knesset instead voted to dissolve itself minutes ahead of the deadline in late May and schedule fresh elections, preventing another MK, a rival from inside or outside Likud, from getting a crack at assembling a coalition.

Liberman also attacked the prime minister for his position on the political spectrum, saying that although Netanyahu presented himself as a figure on the right-wing, his actions showed otherwise.

“I do not understand the connection between Netanyahu and the right. Netanyahu, who wanted to form a government with [Labor leader] Avi Gabbay, with the Arabs? Netanyahu who pays Hamas? What is his connection to the right?

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during her farewell ceremony, at the Ministry of Justice offices in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“From my point of view, there can only be a broad government without the ultra-Orthodox and without ‘messianists,'” Liberman added, presumably referring to the Union of Right-Wing Parties, whose lawmakers include newly appointed Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has said the country should aspire to run itself as “in the days of King David.”

Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman and then-justice minister Ayelet Shaked arrive for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 17, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

When asked if there was a chance for future cooperation with former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, Lieberman replied: “I do not impose myself on anyone; if Ayelet Shaked picks up the phone, we will talk.”

read more: