Unveiling party platform, Liberman aims to make it harder to topple a government

Yisrael Beytenu chief issues series of socioeconomic and governance vows, including promise to raise to 90 the number of MKs needed to bring down a government in its first 2 years

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

Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Liberman launches the party's campaign in Neve Ilan, ahead of the upcoming elections. August 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Liberman launches the party's campaign in Neve Ilan, ahead of the upcoming elections. August 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman said Sunday that the first bill he would push in the next Knesset would be to increase the difficulty of toppling a government, as he made several socioeconomic and political promises while unveiling his party’s platform.

Israeli governments are both formed and felled by a majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat Knesset. While supporting the current simple majority needed to form a government, Liberman proposed raising the necessary number of votes to bring down a government within its first two years to 90, similar to number needed to remove a Knesset speaker.

“To topple it, in its first two years, 90 votes would be needed,” he said at his right-wing secularist party’s campaign launch.

“When you promise two years of political stability, the citizens of Israel profit,” he added.

The Yisrael Beytenu leader also said he would support two-year instead of one-year national budgets.

Liberman is finance minister in the outgoing government, whose fall was accelerated by fears that a rebel coalition MK would be the 61st needed to bring down the narrow government and force early elections. In 2020, the previous government was brought down by the failure to pass an annual budget amid political wrangling between then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Another option for changing an Israeli government is if 61 Knesset members vote to swap in an alternative coalition, without elections; it was not clear if Liberman’s proposal covers such a scenario as well.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left), the incoming interim prime minister, and outgoing premier Naftali Bennett (right) in the Knesset, following a vote to dissolve parliament for new elections, on June 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

By pushing to almost guarantee two years of stable governance, Liberman took a different tack from other campaigning politicians, many of whom have called for broad governments as a way to achieve stability. Maintaining political stability is a longstanding Israeli political challenge, underscored by the country having had 36 governments and 25 elected Knessets in its 74 years.

Liberman also vowed Sunday to support limiting prime ministers to only two terms and to promote a bill to prevent politicians under criminal indictment from becoming prime minister or president.

Erstwhile Yisrael Beytenu member Eli Avidar — now the founder of Israel Free — supported a bill in the outgoing Knesset to prevent an indicted candidate from forming a government, an effort understood to be largely targeted at opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The former prime minister is currently on trial in three separate corruption cases, which he denies wrongdoing in, and Avidar was a prominent protest activist against him.

Despite his party’s right-wing ideology, Liberman has come out strongly against his former political partner Netanyahu and has now adopted Avidar’s bill as an election promise.

Along with the platform planks related to political stability, Liberman outlined three other sets of issues to which his party would commit: personal security and governance, strengthening the economy, and shrinking socioeconomic gaps.

Terror and crime are persistent security issues; in the past year, a wave of terror attacks and record violent crime in Arab society have repeatedly made headlines.

To address these, Liberman said that he wants to recruit 3,000 new police officers, an ambitious goal after law enforcement has hemorrhaged members in recent years.

“We will need to enlist 3,000 police officers. Without increasing the manpower for the Israel Police, all talk of governance is just talk,” he said, suggesting the proposal would cost NIS 700 million ($216 million) in its first year.

Police inspect the scene of a suspected terror shooting outside Jerusalem’s Old City, August 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Yisrael Beytenu leader and former defense minister said that in total, he wanted to add NIS 3 billion to the internal security budget, to create more attractive employment terms and improve policing technology.

On the socioeconomic front, Liberman based his promises on investments in tech, breaking monopolies and encouraging infrastructure privatization.

Proposing “intense investment in all things connected to high-tech, which is the crown of the Israeli economy,” Liberman said he wanted to add NIS 1 billion in funding to promote the development of artificial intelligence, including the creation of national laboratories.

Yisrael Beytenu led a drawn-out fight in the outgoing coalition to reduce import costs and to fight protectionist policies that drove up costs. Liberman said his party would continue fighting monopolies and importers, as well as push for infrastructure privatization related to a port in Ashdod and a new airport in Haifa.

“Once there is parallel importation, it creates competition,” he said.

Special grants to discharged soldiers, low-earners, and Holocaust survivors were also announced. Liberman did not mention teachers, whose powerful union has been in tense and protracted contract negotiations his Finance Ministry.

Nestled within a long list of specific policy proposals, Liberman also said his party wants to revive its fight to augment the controversial quasi-constitutional Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, which most Yisrael Beytenu MKs voted for when it was passed in 2018.

This issue is particularly resonant for Yisrael Beytenu, which draws its core support and identity from immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom the state does not formally recognize as Jewish. Yisrael Beytenu Minister Hamad Amar, a member of the Druze minority, which has been vocal against the law, was the only member of the then-coalition to vote against the legislation in the final vote for approval.

“We want to change the National Law and move it to the wording of [the Israeli] Declaration of Independence,” he said, which prescribes “equality” for all of Israel’s citizens.

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