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Liberman sets his sights on becoming Israel’s next finance minister

Hawkish Yisrael Beytenu leader says he won’t join Netanyahu or ultra-Orthodox parties in a government, but doesn’t rule out teaming up with dovish Meretz

Screen capture from video of Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman during an interview with Channel 12 news, December 29, 2020. (Channel 12 news)
Screen capture from video of Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman during an interview with Channel 12 news, December 29, 2020. (Channel 12 news)

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday said he is aiming to become Israel’s next finance minister after the coming March elections, and ruled out joining a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud or his ultra-Orthodox allies, but not the left-wing Meretz.

Speaking to Channel 12 news, Liberman, a former foreign and defense minister, asserted that although “in terms of experience, ability and data” he is more suitable than any other candidate to be prime minister, he would like to tackle the “wild challenge” of the country’s finances.

“In the current circumstances there is one position that is more suitable than prime minister and that is the finance minister whose role is to rehabilitate the Israeli economy,” said Liberman, who took his secularist right-wing party into the opposition after the last election.

“I like challenges, and that is a wild challenge,” added Liberman, invoking the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

Yisrael Beytenu will also seek the interior, immigration, and health portfolios, he said.

While he would not consider sitting in a government with Netanyahu or his allied ultra-Orthodox parties, Liberman, a right-wing hawk, said he doesn’t rule out sitting with Meretz, a leftist party that shares some common views with Yisrael Beytenu on issues of religion and state. The two parties are entirely at odds, however, on issues relating to the Palestinians and Arab Israelis.

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz (R) and party member Tamar Zandberg at a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 12, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“As far as I am concerned, the national interest is to end the rule by Netanyahu, Shas and United Torah Judaism,” Liberman said, referring to the two ultra-Orthodox parties in the Knesset.

Liberman reiterated that he wants to establish a bloc of four parties, Yisrael Beytenu, the nationalist Yamina, centrist Yesh Atid and right-wing New Hope, a party recently established by former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar to challenge Netanyahu.

Recent prediction polls have given Yisrael Beytenu seven Knesset seats in the coming March elections, the same as it has now. The surveys have predicted that Sa’ar’s New Hope would become the second-largest party after Likud, but do not give the four parties listed by Liberman enough seats to form a majority government.

Though a former minister under Netanyahu, Liberman has vowed to unseat him. Following the three previous rounds of elections over the past two years, Liberman refused to join a coalition led by Netanyahu, his close ally-turned-rival.

Israel heads to its fourth national election in two years on March 23.

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