Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman insisted Sunday that “there is no essential difference” between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Blue and White rival Benny Gantz, either of whom he said could be premier.
Since fresh elections were called last month after Netanyahu failed to form a ruling coalition, Liberman has called for a national unity government to be formed after the September vote that will include his Yisrael Beytenu, the premier’s Likud party and Blue and White.
Liberman, whose refusal to join a Netanyahu-led coalition over a bill regulating military exemptions for yeshiva students helped precipitate the elections, had previously ruled out backing Gantz for prime minister, but in recent weeks has softened his stance.
“In my opinion it can be Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz,” he told Kan public radio. “There is no essential difference between them.”
Liberman said it was more important what type of government there would be than who led it.
“I’m talking about a broad government, an emergency one, in order to get the wheel out of the mud,” he said. “Today the country is deep in the mud, both economically and security-wise, which is why we need a broad government.”
The Yisrael Beytenu head also noted Netanyahu’s past praise for Gantz, whom the prime minister branded a “weak leftist” ahead of April’s elections.
“The person who appointed Benny Gantz chief of staff was Benjamin Netanyahu. The person who praised Benny Gantz the most for his performance in [Operation Protective Edge] was Benjamin Netanyahu,” he said, using the official name for the 2014 Gaza war.
Blue and White has expressed support for a unity government, though not while Likud is led by Netanyahu. Likud has condemned the prospect of a “leftist government” and reiterated its call for a right-wing coalition led by Netanyahu.
After the Knesset voted to dissolve itself last month when Netanyahu was unable to form a majority coalition ahead of the deadline, the premier charged that Liberman “is now part of the left” and “brings down right-wing governments.”
Liberman was once a senior aide to Netanyahu and has served in his governments as foreign minister and defense minister. He resigned the latter post in November to protest a ceasefire agreement with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group to end a flareup with Israel.