Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday that the Likud party was preparing to act violently on election day September 17, an accusation the ruling party denied.
The former defense minister in an interview with Channel 12 said that Likud was planning on sending teams of thugs to voting stations where Yisrael Beytenu was expected to have a strong showing to disrupt the vote.
“We’re receiving information from Likud staff that there is a directive that in the voting stations where Yisrael Beytenu is strong, to bring reinforced teams to carry out brutal violence, to start brawls, to create chaos, to create a situation to disqualify the votes,” he said.
Liberman charged that the plan had at least been condoned by high-ranking Likud personnel but refrained from implicating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the party.
Likud decried the accusation, calling it a “lie and a falsehood.”
“No one in Likud is acting or will act with violence. There is no such directive. Liberman is lying because he is under pressure and understands that he is going to lose,” the party said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
Liberman said in the interview that he didn’t trust ex-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz and his Blue and White party not to join a coalition including ultra-Orthodox parties. While he was pleased to see Blue and White adopting his agenda in opposing a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox, Liberman said, he predicted that Gantz could turn up as Netanyahu’s defense minister, with Blue and White in a Netanyahu-led coalition, if the electoral arithmetic allowed it.
He also directly attacked Netanyahu, questioning his bona fides as a right-wing leader.
“Netanyahu is the one who transferred the whole city of Hebron to [then Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser] Arafat, who voted in favor of expelling Jews from Gush Katif [during the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza], who blocked the death penalty for terrorists. It’s the same Netanyahu who pays protection money to a terrorist group. What his connection to the right is, nobody knows,” Liberman said. Netanyahu’s government has allowed for the transfer of Qatari grants to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in a bid for quiet on the southern border.
Liberman precipitated the upcoming September 17 vote by refusing to join Netanyahu’s coalition following the April elections when he clashed with ultra-Orthodox parties over legislation to regulate military service for ultra-Orthodox men. An irate Netanyahu said at the time that “Liberman is now part of the Left,” a charge he’s repeated several times since.
Likud was unable to form a ruling majority in negotiations, being only able to muster a total of 60 seats with coalition partners, one short of the majority it needed in the 120-seat Knesset. Netanyahu then dissolved parliament and called fresh elections.
Polls published by major TV networks Thursday showed Likud and its Blue and White rivals tied in a stiff battle, with each projected to win 32 seats in the 22nd Knesset.
Both polls also showed that Netanyahu remains unable to form the right-wing coalition he desires without his bitter rival Liberman — with only 56 seats for the right-wing bloc, not including Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, which was projected to garner 9-11 seats.