Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who following his resignation last week was required to move from the cabinet benches in the Knesset and sit among the opposition, switched seats Wednesday with a member of his own faction, apparently to avoid sitting next to the leader of an Arab party.
Liberman, who chairs the Yisrael Beytenu party, was initially placed next to the leader of the Joint (Arab) List, Aymen Odeh. Hawkish Liberman has in the past labeled Odeh “a terrorist” who belongs in jail along with the rest of his party.
Hebrew media reports said that Liberman had asked the Knesset administration to move seats.
On Wednesday MKs noticed that Liberman’s fellow faction member former immigration and absorption minister Sofa Landver had moved one seat over to sit next to Odeh, while Liberman took her place at the end of the row.
ליברמן ביקש להחליף מקום במליאה עם סופה לנדבר כדי לא לשבת ליד איימן עודה pic.twitter.com/aIN1rOOfda
— יקי אדמקר (@YakiAdamker) November 21, 2018
In response, Odeh tweeted, “The other day, he was defense minister and today he’s playing musical chairs because he can’t sit next to an Arab.”
Zionist Union lawmaker Stav Shaffir appealed to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to intervene and prevent Liberman from moving seats away Odeh, saying it was blatantly racist.
“I view with great severity the request of former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, to ask to move his seat so as not to sit next to MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, in the Knesset plenum. This demand stems from blatant and dangerous racism,” Shaffir wrote to Edelstein.
On Monday Odeh posted a selfie to his Twitter feed showing himself grim-faced in the Knesset with Liberman sitting next to him.
“I am considering resigning from the opposition,” Odeh wrote in a jab at Liberman’s resignation from the cabinet last week.
שוקל התפטרות מהאופוזיציה pic.twitter.com/kFtjHeYsC9
— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) November 19, 2018
Liberman caused a coalition crisis last Wednesday when he resigned as a minister and pulled his party out of the coalition over criticism of a ceasefire deal with Hamas. Liberman opposed the ceasefire and had called for a more forceful response to a barrage of hundreds of rockets that killed one person, injured dozens of others and caused significant damage to buildings. Israel responded with airstrikes against 150 targets in Gaza.
The decision meant Liberman and the other four Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers received new seats with the other opposition parties in the Knesset.