Liberman says no more coalition talks, threatens to walk if demands not met

Yisrael Beytenu chief says Likud must agree to five core demands, including defeating Hamas and passing IDF draft law, or he will join opposition

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman leads a party faction meeting at the Knesset on May 13, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman leads a party faction meeting at the Knesset on May 13, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman threatened to take his party to the opposition Monday, citing significant gaps with the Likud party in coalition talks, mainly on security-related issues.

Liberman declared that he would hold no further negotiations, telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he could accept his demands or risk sending Israelis back to the polls.

“I don’t intend to meet with anyone anymore. They know the demands. If they want we will be [in the coalition], if they don’t want we will go to the opposition,” he said.

Netanyahu needs Yisrael Beytenu’s five seats to form a governing coalition. Without them, his other potential partners will only give him 60 seats out of the Knesset’s 120.

Liberman said the party had five core demands that must be all be met: “It’s all or nothing,” he said.

The demands:

  • Defeating Hamas in Gaza rather than seeking arrangements with it
  • Chairmanship of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee
  • No changes to the bill regulating the draft of ultra-Orthodox men
  • An end to the Chief Rabbinate’s practice of demanding DNA tests from Russian-speaking immigrants to prove their Jewishness
  • Pension reforms

Liberman noted that Netanyahu’s Likud party had already acceded to his demand to pass a law within six months enabling the death penalty for terror convicts. It had also agreed to give his party the defense and immigrant absorption portfolios.

But he said he would not agree to be defense minister if Netanyahu overrode his plan to dismantle the West Bank Bedouin hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar, which European countries have warned Israel not to destroy.

And he stressed that differences remained on matters of security policy regarding the Gaza Strip.

Liberman resigned his position as defense minister in November of last year over Netanyahu’s decision to pursue a ceasefire in the Strip after a round of cross-border violence.

He was similarly critical of the most recent truce this month after hundreds of rockets were fired at Israel, saying he would be a partner to “defeating” Hamas, not to “reaching agreements” with it.

A picture taken in Gaza City on May 5, 2019, shows rockets being fired toward Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hamas’s “building of strength is something we cannot accept,” he said.

Regarding his dispute with ultra-Orthodox parties over a law regulating the drafting of ultra-Orthodox seminary students to the army, Liberman repeated his stance that he would not agree to any change in the current bill, which has passed its first reading in the Knesset.

Ultra-Orthodox parties have said they won’t join the coalition if the bill isn’t changed.

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