Defense Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday announced his resignation from the Netanyahu government over the PM’s appeasement policies towards Hamas.
“What happened yesterday is a surrender to terrorism,” Liberman said at an afternoon press conference.
Liberman noted several recent disagreements with Netanyahu, including allowing a Qatari fuel shipment into the Gaza Strip and the repeated postponement of the High Court’s sanctioned evacuation of illegal Bedouin settlement Khan al-Ahmar near Jerusalem.
Liberman called the PM’s Gaza Strip policy “defeatist,” charging that “What we are currently doing as a country is to buy a short-term quiet at the expense of long-term national security.” He pointed the finger at Netanyahu’s political-security cabinet and the government, suggesting the last straw was permitting Qatar to transfer $15 million into the Gaza Strip last week.
“You have to understand where this money went,” he said. “Before anyone else, it went to the families of terrorists who clashed with IDF soldiers at the fence.”
“If I continued to serve in my position, I would not have been able to look into the eyes of the residents of the south,” Liberman said.
Liberman also said there’s a need to quickly reach a date for the next elections, and that he hoped that a meeting to decide the date be held no later than Sunday. Sources in the Likud agreed there was no point in continuing the current Knesset and government, and that a date be set as soon for the elections.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Netanyahu will keep the defense portfolio vacated by Liberman and that “there is no need to go to elections during this sensitive security period,” asserting the Netanyahu government can live out its term.
Chairman of Habayit Hayehudi Knesset faction MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli called on Netanyahu to appoint her party’s chairman, Naftali Bennett, as defense minister, threatening that “without the defense portfolio, Habayit Hayehudi will not continue as a partner in this government,” she said.
Liberman’s associates told Haaretz that the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman was waiting for the victory of his close associate Moshe Lion in the elections for mayor of Jerusalem, and now that he has won it is time for Liberman to leave the government, which he entered in May 2016.
With Yisrael Beiteinu’s departure, the Netanyahu coalition will drop from 66 to 61 MKs, which would allow it to continue functioning with a tight, one-vote majority.