Liberman says he rebuffed Likud approach to join coalition; not till Netanyahu quits

Outgoing finance minister refuses to consider partnership with ultra-Orthodox parties, predicts US will put ‘physical pressure’ on expected right-wing religious coalition

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to supporters of his Yisrael Beytenu party as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters in Modiin, November 1, 2022. (Flash90)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to supporters of his Yisrael Beytenu party as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters in Modiin, November 1, 2022. (Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Friday that he had rebuffed a Likud approach to join a prospective right-wing religious coalition being put together by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The outgoing minister told the Ynet news site that a Likud member approached him following the November 1 vote, asking him if he would join a government led by Netanyahu’s victorious party.

Liberman said he answered that he had “no problem” joining a government with the Likud, but only after Netanyahu retires.

But Netanyahu is not the only obstacle to him joining the expected government. Regarding a government with ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, Liberman said “there is nothing to talk about.”

Though beginning his career as an ally of Netanyahu, Liberman, chair of the nationalist and secularist Yisrael Beytenu party, has in recent years bluntly refused to join a government led by the Likud leader and with ultra-Orthodox parties. Netanyahu’s allies have accused Liberman of antisemitism for policies and remarks seen as harmful to the ultra-Orthodox community.

The final results of the November 1 elections gave parties loyal to Netanyahu 64 seats in the Knesset, to the current coalition’s 51.

Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman (left) and then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, on October 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s Likud will be the Knesset’s largest party, but the major success of the elections was the rise of the Netanyahu-allied, far-right Religious Zionism faction, which includes the Otzma Yehudit party of Itamar Ben Gvir, who was barred from IDF service because of his extremist activities and positions, and the anti-LGBT Noam party.

According to Liberman, Netanyahu wants to bring a moderating force into the government as he understands that he will face challenges in a coalition with the far-right. In particular, the finance minister predicted that the Biden administration will apply “significant physical pressure” on the government.

The center-right National Unity party under Benny Gantz, Gideon Sa’ar and Gadi Eisenkot has also ruled out going into a coalition with Netanyahu and the Religious Zionism party.

Only a day after the election, an Axios report said that the Biden administration was likely to boycott Ben Gvir if he is appointed to a ministerial post as expected.

Liberman also reportedly met with senior Treasury officials in the aftermath of the election, telling them to prepare to turn their clocks “2000 years back, because this is what this coalition will do to you,” suggesting that a right-wing religious government would impose archaic policies in the Finance Ministry.

“Netanyahu has to be a Shiite suicide bomber to give the Haredim the [Knesset] Finance Committee, and to give Smotrich the Treasury,” he said, and claimed the Religious Zionism chair would ignore Netanyahu and do whatever he wants when he is appointed.

Liberman led a series of reforms in the finance ministry that were often seen as targeting the subsidies given to the ultra-Orthodox communities.

Most Popular
read more: