Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that he would force a coalition with the Likud and Blue and White parties after September’s elections, adding that he would not sit in a religious or exclusively left-wing government.
Speaking to Army Radio, Liberman said his aim was to create a “stable, broad government that will be able to function for four years. At this time we will be members only of a broad government, made up of only the two major parties and Yisrael Beytenu.”
Liberman said his position went against those of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party.
“It’s clear that both Gantz and Netanyahu prefer a narrow government with the ultra-Orthodox. All I have seen over the last month — the flattery of the ultra-Orthodox by Gantz and his colleagues — points to their desired direction. I think that such a government is not good for the needs of Israel at this time, so I hope that we will reach election day with enough seats to impose this.”
Liberman would not be drawn over whether he preferred the Likud or Blue and White leader to be prime minister.
“I do not rule out anyone, neither Gantz nor Netanyahu,” he said.
“If [Netanyahu] is a candidate for prime minister, I will support him, if he wins the most seats,” Liberman said. “Before we recommend [an individual to be prime minister] we will demand that the two major parties commit themselves to a broad government.”
Liberman said Saturday that after the upcoming elections he would force an “emergency” coalition with the Likud and Blue and White to block ultra-Orthodox parties from entering the government.
“We will impose a government with the Likud and Blue and White parties — it will be an emergency government, a liberal-national government. We will do everything to block the ultra-Orthodox, not to let them enter the government,” he told Channel 13 news.
Liberman, who used his party’s five seats to prevent Netanyahu from forming a coalition after the April 9 elections, is aiming to again be kingmaker or king-breaker after September’s elections. His call for an emergency government involving both Likud and Blue and White amounts to a demand for a government without Netanyahu — though he did not spell that out in Saturday’s interview — since Blue and White, under Gantz, has said it will not sit in a coalition with a Likud led by Netanyahu, who is facing indictment, pending a hearing, in three criminal cases.
The Knesset voted to disband itself and called new elections for September 17, after Netanyahu failed to broker a compromise between right-wing secular Yisrael Beytenu and ultra-Orthodox parties in the wake of the April 9 elections. Netanyahu was thus unable to muster a majority coalition.
Initial polls have suggested Liberman may emerge from the coalition standoff in a stronger position, and increase his party’s five Knesset seats to eight or nine in the September election.
Liberman had repeatedly said before the April vote that he backed Netanyahu for prime minister, but would only join the government if there was a commitment to pass, unaltered, the Defense Ministry version of a bill regulating the draft of the ultra-Orthodox into the military. That version of the bill is opposed by ultra-Orthodox parties, which want to soften its terms.