Liberman: We’ve been offered every cabinet role to join narrow coalition

Yisrael Beytenu chief says if no is government formed in next 24 hours it’ll be due to ‘egos’ of Gantz, Netanyahu

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a faction meeting in the Knesset on December 2, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a faction meeting in the Knesset on December 2, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday said his party has come under unprecedented pressure in recent days to join a right-wing coalition.

“We have been offered every possible role in the coalition and in the Knesset — all this, only if we agree to a narrow government, contrary to our promise to voters. Needless to say, we rejected all of these suggestions outright,” Liberman wrote in a Facebook post.

“I am proud of my colleagues in the party. We are the only party in the country capable of making decisions solely for the benefit of the State of Israel, and in stark contrast to its political and electoral interests,” he added.

Liberman also attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, saying any failure to form a government was due to their “egos.”

“If a government is not formed in the next 24 hours, it is solely because the leaders of the two major parties, Likud and Blue and White, were unwilling to set aside their egos and could not reach an agreement on who will serve first as prime minister and when there will be a rotation,” he said.

Liberman also repeated his mantra that a narrow government will not be able to meet the economic and security challenges, as big decisions require a broad national consensus.

Lawmakers have until Wednesday night to agree to nominate a Knesset member to attempt to put together as government before being forced to dissolve the parliament and call an unprecedented third round of elections for March 2.

Liberman, a right-wing secularist who holds eight of the Knesset’s 120 seats, has refused to enter a coalition that does not include both Likud and Blue and White, though Likud has continued to try to woo him. He campaigned on such a unity government ahead of the elections in September and has continued to push for such an arrangement amid the ongoing deadlock in coalition talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Jerusalem media conference, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Monday, Netanyahu appealed to Liberman to enter 11th-hour negotiations with his Likud party.

“I call on Avigdor Liberman to enter into accelerated negotiations in the 48 hours left to establish a broad, strong unity government for Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Liberman rejected Netanyahu’s appeal several hours later, during a meeting with mayors and local council leaders from the Likud party. The footage from the closed meeting was published by the Walla news site.

Neither Gantz’s Blue and White nor Likud has enough allies to form a government without the other or the support of Yisrael Beytenu, but the two parties have failed to make progress on unity efforts.

Also on Monday, Gantz called on Netanyahu to forgo his expected bid to seek immunity from prosecution and enter a unity government instead.

Netanyahu, who has been charged in a trio of corruption cases, has not yet announced whether he will seek immunity from prosecution, but is widely expected to do so.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee discussion at the Knesset, December 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud officials shot down Gantz’s offer, saying seeking immunity was “an explicit right given by the legislature,” Channel 12 news reported.

Meanwhile, Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid said that he would give up on a rotation agreement for the premiership with Gantz, as he sought to bolster the party’s chances in the increasingly likely upcoming election.

In a statement released by his office, Netanyahu accused Blue and White’s leaders of “transparent tricks” and “empty spins.”

Blue and White said in response to the premier’s statement: “The only thing that is transparent is Netanyahu’s desire to lead Israel to an additional round of elections with the sole purpose of seeking immunity. Netanyahu, set Israel free [from yourself].”

Both Gantz and Netanyahu have said that they seek a unity deal, but observers see a third round of elections as all but inevitable. On Monday, the parties agreed that, if called, the elections would be held on March 2.

Both men have blamed the other for the impasse.

Netanyahu has refused to step down and insisted on being prime minister for several months at the start of a rotational agreement, but Gantz has refused to sit in a government under Netanyahu until the premier’s legal status is cleared up.

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