Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair accused Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Twitter Saturday of attempting to engineer a coup against his father.
The younger Netanyahu, known for his combative tweets, made the accusation after Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman mentioned Edelstein as a possible alternative to Netanyahu as prime minister.
“Liberman just revealed by mistake on live TV the coup he has been planning with Edelstein,” Netanyahu tweeted. “And they say I can’t keep my mouth shut.”
He later deleted the tweet. When other users claimed he was making the accusations on behalf of his father, he denied it. “I’m an adult and I write on my iPhone what comes to mind in the moment,” he said.
In an interview aired on Channel 12’s Meet the Press, Liberman had said that if Likud does not commit to forming a secularist coalition with Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu after the elections, he would ask the party to replace Netanyahu with someone else as head of the party.
“It’s clear to everyone that there won’t be a third vote,” said Liberman, and should Netanyahu fail to form a government again, “the Likud will have to think very hard about what they will do.”
Asked to propose a Likud member who could head the party instead of Netanyahu, Liberman named Edelstein as one possible choice.
But Edelstein quickly distanced himself from the proposal, issuing a statement in which he said Netanyahu was “Likud’s only candidate to head the next government” and called Liberman’s use of his name an attempt to “delegitimize the chosen Likud leader.”
Polls have shown that both Likud and Blue and White are unlikely to be able to form a government after the September elections without Yisrael Beytenu. A Channel 12 survey aired Saturday showed that more voters prefer a unity government made up of the Likud and Blue and White than one that would include Yisrael Beytenu.
Animosity between Netanyahu and Liberman has ballooned in recent months. Netanyahu’s failure to form a government after the April elections stemmed from Liberman’s refusal to join a coalition unless a bill formalizing military exemptions for seminary students was passed without changes, a condition rejected by the premier’s ultra-Orthodox allies.
During Saturday’s interview Liberman also called for a televised “face-off” with the premier to set the record straight on “everyday lies” told by the PM and members of the ruling Likud party.
Since the pair’s falling out, Netanyahu has taken to calling Liberman a member of the political left.
The real struggle in these elections, Liberman told Channel 12, was not about who would prevail as prime minister, whether Netanyahu or Gantz, but about which Israel would prevail, “the one of Yisrael Beytenu or the one of [United Right’s Bezalel] Smotrich, [Shas’s Aryeh] Deri and [United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov] Litzman.”