Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman has launched a scathing broadside at the Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he said may have been having him and his family followed by private investigators as a form of intimidation.
Liberman also referred to Likud ministers in blistering terms, branding Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev “an animal” and calling Foreign Minister Israel Katz “a pathetic liar,” in excerpts published Monday from an interview he gave to the Maariv newspaper.
Regev, in response, said that Liberman is the most hated man in Israel, because of the political strife she said he has brought upon the country.
“Bibi’s problem is that as soon as you have an approach or attitude that is different to his, and it contradicts his interests, you immediately become a personal enemy,” Liberman said of Netanyahu. “You’re immediately accused of hating the prime minister, of being a leftist, of trying to bring him down. They ignore the facts.”
He added, “I would not be surprised if Netanyahu and his people are using private investigators against me and my family. That is how they intimidate. Regrettably, Bibi is incapable of understanding concepts such as friendship and loyalty.”
Next, Liberman took aim at Regev, mocking a 2015 interview in which she took pride in never having read anything by Russian writer and playwright Anton Chekhov, considered one of the greatest authors of short-form fiction.
Liberman said that Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a Russian Jewish Zionist leader who had a strong influence on the founding fathers of the Likud party, would “explode” if he were to “listen for one minute to Miri Regev, who is proud of having never held a book by Chekhov.”
“It is an insult to the People of the Book,” he said. “That is what happens when you take an animal and put her in the Culture Ministry.”
The Likud party of today, Liberman said, “is a collection of wheeler-dealers,” including Foreign Minister Israel Katz, whom he branded a “pathetic liar.”
“For them,” he said, “Likud is just a platform for a personal political career.”
The full interview with Liberman will be published by Maariv on Tuesday, the eve of Yom Kippur.
Liberman’s staunchly right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party was a natural coalition partner with Likud until after the April elections this year, when Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led coalition due to an impasse with ultra-Orthodox parties. Likud accused Liberman of deliberately thwarting Netanyahu for his own political interests.
Without Liberman’s support, Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition. He then dissolved parliament to prevent his key rival, MK Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, from being given a chance at the premiership. Fresh elections held in September only deepened the political logjam.
Liberman, who in the second 2019 election increased his party’s size from five to eight Knesset seats, has repeatedly called for a broad unity government comprising Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, and Blue and White.
Netanyahu has again been tasked with trying to form a coalition but has focused his efforts on bringing his right-wing and ultra-Orthodox partners into a government with Blue and White while largely marginalizing Liberman. A meeting between Netanyahu and Liberman last week, aimed at exploring a possible coalition agreement, ended after just an hour with no results.
In response to Liberman’s comments, Culture Minister Regev said, “Today, if you ask in the street who is the most hated person, who is the person who over the past year brought upon us tremendous damage and political chaos, and who is most responsible for the cultural division in Israel, everyone will point at Liberman.”
Katz’s office said in a statement that “Liberman is furious because his lies have been revealed.”