Liberman says plans for joint Knesset run with Likud began a year ago

Yisrael Beytenu head calls for fewer political parties, denies report of rotating premiership and says he will likely stay at the Foreign Ministry

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman held a press conference Friday to address questions regarding the announced partnership between his nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to run for the Knesset on a joint list.

According to Liberman, discussions about the joint election list began a year ago, and a final decision was reached between interested parties two months ago. It was unclear Friday whether the foreign minister was alluding to inter-party negotiations given denials by several top Likud figures, who said they were surprised by the deal. More likely, he meant secret talks between the prime minister and himself.

“We’re establishing the broad and historic national camp that led the country for many years,” the Soviet-born Liberman stated. Elections are to be held on January 22. Thursday’s Likud-Yisrael Beytenu alliance has prompted new calls for center-left parties such as Kadima, Labor and Yesh Atid to run together as well, though Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid ruled himself out of such an alliance.

The foreign minister touted the efficacy of a coalition comprised of larger factions: “Everyone understands that it’s easier and more proper to run a country with large parties, rather than with splinter parties whose lifespan equals one term [in office].

“Whoever votes for such splinter parties, which are devoid of ideology, understands that he’s throwing his vote into the trash bin of history,” Liberman added. He stressed that Israel must transition to a system of large parties, possibly four or five of them “to ensure governability and stability.”

The foreign minister said his party would have to compromise in an effort to achieve a common platform with Likud.

The Yisrael Beytenu chief denied a Channel 2 report on Thursday that indicated he and the prime minister had agreed to a rotational premiership, whereby Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for the first three years with Liberman taking over the top job in year four.

“I never raised the possibility of a rotation,” Liberman told reporters. “What we have here is my support for Netanyahu as a candidate for the prime ministership, for the full term.”

Regarding his role in the next government, Liberman said he would likely choose to remain at the Foreign Ministry.

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