Liberman unveils Yisrael Beytenu candidates, leaves out veteran lawmakers

Ex-defense chief dismisses projections that his right-wing party will only pick up 4-5 seats: ‘We won’t be cowed’ by the polls

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman presents his right-wing party's candidates for the upcoming Knesset elections, during an event in Ashkelon on February 19, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman presents his right-wing party's candidates for the upcoming Knesset elections, during an event in Ashkelon on February 19, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday unveiled his party’s slate for the upcoming national elections, leaving out a pair of veteran lawmakers who have served under him for over a decade.

At an event in the coastal city of Ashkelon, Liberman presented the top 20 names on his secular right-wing party’s slate, but with Yisrael Beytenu currently polling at 4-5 seats, few of those are expected to enter the 120-member Knesset.

Liberman said he was undeterred by the polls, however, using his difficult to translate Hebrew campaign slogan “lo dofek heshbon,” which could mean “we won’t be cowed.”

“We are doing work on the ground. We’ll get 8-9 mandates at a minimum,” he said.

Candidates from Yisrael Beytenu for upcoming Knesset elections are seen on stage during an event held by the right-wing party in Ashkelon on February 19, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Noticeably absent from the electoral slate was the party’s current number two, Sofa Landver, who served as immigration minister until November when Liberman resigned as defense minister and pulled Yisrael Beytenu out of the government.

Landver joined Yisrael Beytenu in 2006. A decade prior, she was elected to the Knesset on the Labor Party slate.

Also left out was Robert Ilatov, who like Landver has been a Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker since 2006. He announced Monday he would not run in the April 9 elections.

Yisrael Beytenu MKs Avigdor Liberman (C), Sofa Landver (R) and Robert Ilatov are seen during a Knesset plenum session on December 30, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Among MKs from who have served in the past Knesset placed in the top ten were Oded Forer, Yulia Malinovsky and Hamad Amar. Malinovsky was forced to resign her seat in November following Liberman’s resignation and return to Knesset.

The most high profile newcomer was Yevgeny Suba, a Russian-language journalist, who was placed third on the list.

Much of Yisrael Beytenu’s electorate slate is made up of Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Among the other newcomers on the list, only former director of the Israel Diamond Exchange Eli Avidar, who placed in fourth, is expected to enter the Knesset based on current polling.

Liberman said the party would push for a number of issues in the next Knesset it has long championed, including introducing a death penalty for terrorists and passing legislation that regulates exemptions to military conscription for ultra-Orthodox students.

“Whoever wants a true [and] sane right will vote for us. We must deal with those who want to promote a religious state here and those who want to annex millions of Palestinians and give them the right to vote,” he said.

Then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman inspects a sight on a rifle at a weapons manufacturing plant in Sderot on December 14, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Liberman resigned as defense minister in November to protest a ceasefire with the Hamas terror group to end fighting in the Gaza Strip, a move that nearly led to the government’s collapse and would precipitate the calling of early elections a month later.

Liberman has not ruled out joining a future government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though earlier this month he was reported to say the premier will struggle to form a coalition even if his Likud party wins the elections, as his potential partners may not want to serve under a prime minister facing a possible corruption indictment.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce in the coming weeks whether he intends to indict Netanyahu in three separate criminal investigations, all of which the premier has denied any wrongdoing.

Liberman, who has previously faced corruption charges, has said Netanyahu should not resign even if he is charged.

Yisrael Beytenu’s top 10 candidates for Knesset elections on April 9, 2019:

1. Avigdor Liberman
2. Oded Forer
3. Yevgeny Suba
4. Eli Avidar
5. Yulia Malinovsky
6. Hamad Amar
7. Alex Kushnir
8. Mark Ifraimov
9. Limor Magen Telem
10. Elina Bardoch-Yalov

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