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Under banner of ‘real secular right,’ Yisrael Beytenu launches election slate

Addressing concerns about women’s dwindling representation, party chief Liberman adds a female military general in the fourth slot

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman presents his party's candidates for the upcoming elections at a campaign event in Tel Aviv, September 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman presents his party's candidates for the upcoming elections at a campaign event in Tel Aviv, September 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Avigdor Liberman announced his Yisrael Beytenu party’s Knesset slate on Monday, adding a former military general to a roster largely filled by sitting lawmakers.

Rounding out the five seats behind Finance Minister Liberman are Agriculture Minister Oded Forer, MK Evgeny Sova, former Israel Defense Forces gender adviser and reserve brigadier general Sharon Nir, MK Yulia Malinovsky, and Druze politician Hamad Amar, a minister in Liberman’s finance ministry. Yisrael Beytenu has been polling at five seats, below the seven it holds in the current Knesset.

Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Alex Kushnir, one of the party’s most active lawmakers, is in the seventh spot, and is not expected to enter the Knesset unless the party outperforms polling or enters the government and can swap ministers for candidates lower on the list.

Given that the party currently has 10 politicians in power between the Knesset and the cabinet, several other sitting lawmakers were pushed down the list. Yossi Shain, Limor Magen Telem, Elina Bardach Yalov, and Sharon Rofeh Ofir are in the ninth through 12th spots, with Batya Kahana-Dror, a national religious women’s activist, bumped into the eighth.

Fifty days out from the November 1 election, Liberman’s slate was augmented to address public criticism that too few women are being placed in realistic spots for the next Knesset, according to party sources.

Liberman announced his slate to the soundtrack of a jingle declaring that Yisrael Beytenu is the “real secular right,” after comments in which the party head took pride in forming a government without the majority of the Knesset’s ideological right-wing politicians.

Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Liberman announces his list for the upcoming elections at a campaign event in Tel Aviv, September 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Liberman reaffirmed his commitment to block ally-turned-rival Benjamin Netanyahu from reclaiming power in the 25th Knesset, charging that the Likud leader could use the situation to slip his ongoing corruption trial.

“Our most important task is to prevent Netanyahu and his fundamentalist bloc from reaching 61 mandates, because we know exactly what will happen,” Liberman said at the party’s Tel Aviv list launch, “the closing of Netanyahu’s cases.”

Netanyahu, who denies all charges against him, has slung mud at Liberman over the past two weeks, in connection to allegations that the finance minister propositioned a former activist to hire a hitman on his behalf 20 years ago. Liberman claims that Netanyahu is behind the claims and similarly denies them. On Sunday he accused Netanyahu of employing the “exact methods” of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi party’s chief propogandist, as well as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, against him.

Addressing Netanyahu’s election promise to fund Haredi schools without requiring core studies earlier on Sunday to unify Ashkenazi Haredi politicians under the United Torah Judaism banner, Liberman said that returning him and his political partners to power would ruin hallmarks of Yisrael Beytenu’s secular agenda. Netanyahu’s promise came a day after The New York Times published a scathing investigation into failing Haredi schools in New York State.

Liberman said that once Netanyahu and Haredi bloc members UTJ and Shas and far-right Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit return to power, they would bring “the complete abolition of the term ‘sharing the burden,’ the abolition of the Law of Return, the abolition of the requirement for core studies, and the robbery of the public coffers.”

Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman and then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, on October 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Himself an immigrant to Israel from Soviet Moldova, Liberman draws the core of his support from immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Smotrich has pushed in the past to cancel the right for grandchildren of Jews to qualify for Israeli citizenship, which would affect Liberman’s immigrant base.

Liberman has also long pushed for Haredi integration into the workforce and military, and earlier this year he instituted measures to financially support working families. As he and fellow party members have articulated in the past, Yisrael Beytenu’s right-wing, secular, liberal economic agenda maintains a welfare flair to support Israelis who they deem as working, serving or otherwise “contributing” to society, as expressed by Forer at the Monday launch.

Launching his party’s campaign last month, Liberman made four core election promises: creating political stability, increasing physical security, strengthening the Israeli economy, and closing socioeconomic gaps.

“Political stability is the necessary condition for economic growth,” the finance minister said on Monday, adding that his brand of stability would not come at the cost of allying with Netanyahu.

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