Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday that he would be pleased were a broad unity government formed consisting of the ruling Likud party and its main rival Blue and White, even in the unlikely event such a coalition did not include his own party.
“I doubt a wide unity government would be formed without me,” he reportedly said in an interview. “But I would accept it.”
“We want a broad national government and we will recommend a prime minister without interfering with who heads any party or if there is a rotation,” he said. “I think it is possible and necessary to establish a broad national government with Likud and Blue White, and with Netanyahu,” Liberman told the Kan public broadcaster.
He added that the public debate should be focused not on the identity of the prime minister, but on the kind of government.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has vowed not to join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing indictment in three criminal cases.
Liberman also repeated his assertion that Netanyahu’s Likud is no longer a right-wing party.
“This is the same Netanyahu who pays protection money to Hamas, who fears evacuating Khan al-Ahmar [a Bedouin village slated for destruction] even though the High Court of Justice approved it, voted for the [2005 Gaza] disengagement and prevented the death penalty for terrorists. What exactly is his connection to the right?
“Netanyahu and the Likud party of today have no connection to the right. From the moment all the Likud members remained silent, they gave this legitimacy,” he said.
Liberman added that the Blue and White and Labor parties, similar to Netanyahu, are hoping to form a narrow government with the ultra-Orthodox parties — Yisrael Beytenu’s bitter opponents.
“I heard them this week, everyone, including [Labor leader] Amir Peretz, who also wants the ultra-Orthodox. We do not want the Haredim — we will not sit in the government with the ultra-Orthodox and with the Messianists,” he said, 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 be run as “in the days of King David.”
On Saturday, Liberman said, “We have no interest in joining the Likud party. It is a populist, half-Haredi party, one that sanctifies a personality cult” around its leader, Netanyahu.
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.