Liberman causes furor by snubbing Likud's Regev in TV studio

Shaked: There won’t be a unity government after March elections

Yamina candidate calls on extremist Otzma Yehudit to drop out of race after ‘wasting right-wing votes for six elections in a row’

Yamina candidate Ayelet Shaked interviewed on Channel 13 on January 18, 2020. (Channel 13 screen capture)
Yamina candidate Ayelet Shaked interviewed on Channel 13 on January 18, 2020. (Channel 13 screen capture)

Right-wing lawmaker Ayelet Shaked ruled out a unity government of Likud and Blue and White after the March 2 elections.

“In the last election there was talk of a unity government. Now it’s clear that the unity government has died its final death. There won’t be a unity government,” the former justice minister said Saturday night on a news panel show on Channel 13.

Shaked is no. 3 on the Yamina slate of right-wing parties.

Israel headed to a third round of elections in 11 months after the races in April and September failed to produce a clear winner, with a right-wing-religious bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failing to cobble together a majority amid disagreements between the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu party and Haredi factions Shas and United Torah Judaism.

The repeated failure to form a government — a first in Israel’s history — led to calls for a unity government with a power-sharing rotation deal between Likud’s Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz. But Likud conditioned it on Netanyahu staying on for a number of months in a power-sharing rotation, and Blue and White said the charges against Netanyahu disqualified him from being prime minister for any time.

Ayelet Shaked (R), leader of the New Right party that is part of the Yamina political alliance, flanked by Jewish Home candidate Moti Yogev (L), National Union party leader Bezalel Smotrich (2nd-L), and Jewish Home party leader Rafi Peretz (C) at the alliance’s headquarters in Ramat Gan, September 17, 2019. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

Shaked also called on the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, whose top leaders were banned from running for election due to overt racism, to drop out of the running in order not to waste right-wing votes.

Otzma Yehudit party leader Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to reporters at the Knesset, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Parties must win at least 3.25 percent of total cast ballots in order to enter the Knesset and have their votes count toward parliamentary seats.

“Otzma Yehudit has for years now, for six elections, wasted tens of thousands of right-wing votes. If the right-wing bloc really matters to them, they have to drop out.

Shaked was repeating the call by Netanyahu that Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir quit the race. Ben Gvir has refused, noting that Netanyahu himself torpedoed a right-wing government by refusing to step aside, and accusing Shaked on Saturday of “disqualifying me and an entire constituency because we’re not the elite of religious Zionist. She and [Yamina head Naftali] Bennett would join a Gantz-Lapid government.”

If current polls bear out, the 23rd Knesset set to be elected on March 2 will look a lot like the 21st and 22nd elected in 2019, just as divided and just as deadlocked.

A composite photo showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Blue and White party chief, Benny Gantz, right, speaking separately at a media conference in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Hadash Parush/Flash90)

Saturday provided another sign that the rift between the Likud-led right and rightist-secularist Yisrael Beytenu — without which Likud is not likely to form the next government either — is not healing.

On the same politics-oriented Channel 13 panel show, Hamate Hamercazi, or “Campaign Headquarters,” Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman caused a brief furor when he snubbed Likud’s Culture Minister Miri Regev.

Culture Minister Miri Regev at the annual international Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, on February 28, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

When Regev wished him a “good week and all the best” off-stage, Liberman pointedly refused to respond.

Regev complained about the snub on air: “I told him ‘good week,’ and he preferred not to answer, but I say to you nevertheless – have a good week and all the best to you.”

With the cameras rolling, Liberman replied: “I wish a good week only to human beings.”

Regev took to Twitter after the show to accuse Liberman of “chauvinism and misogyny,” and said she was “shocked by his blunt, hurtful and shaming response.”

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman at a faction meeting in the Knesset on November 25, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Regev is a populist politician famous for disparaging others, including once calling African asylum seekers a “cancer in the nation’s body.” Liberman, too, has drawn his share of criticism for similar rhetoric, including over campaign literature that called Israel’s Arab citizens a “fifth column.”

After the incident, Likud leaders rallied to Regev’s defense. Netanyahu and Justice Minister Amir Ohana both tweeted “Good week!” at Regev.

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