On Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the airwaves in a public announcement at the Knesset, calling on Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman to join him in a rightwing coalition government which the voters said last April was what they wanted.
With a little more than 48 hours left before the deadline expires, Netanyahu was exceptionally restrained in his message to his partner of a quarter century – after the Likud propaganda machine had bee accusing Liberman of plotting to bring to power a leftwing government.
“Anyone who looks at reality understands that we must act responsibly and set up a government immediately,” Netanyahu said. “In recent days, I have been making tremendous efforts to implement the will of the people, to establish a rightwing government and prevent unnecessary and wasteful elections.”
“There is no reason in the world to paralyze the country for another half a year and spend billions when the solution lies in front of us. The solution I proposed recruits the Haredim exactly according to the demands of the IDF. The debate here is over cosmetics, and you don’t go to new elections over cosmetics.”
Earlier on Monday, the Knesset plenum approved a preliminary reading of the proposed bill to dissolve itself, submitted by MK Mickey Zohar (Likud). 65 Mks supported the bill, 43 opposed and the six Arab MKs of the Hadash-Ta’al faction abstained.
Meanwhile, a last-ditch effort to save the day failed on Monday evening, as Netanyahu and Liberman parted company without a deal, which is when Netanyahu announced that he would deliver a statement at the Knesset. Now he has done just that, pushing Liberman as far against the wall as was humanly possible.
There’s no telling whether Liberman would finally give in and join the government – having dragged Netanyahu through the mud for almost two months. Netanyahu for his part tried to use his evident weakness as strength, cautioning Liberman not to turn Israel into another Italy – where governments at one point rose and fell within the same week.
United Torah Judaism and Israel Beiteinu continued their fighting even as this drama was being unveiled, arguing over when the new elections should be held if all else fails. The Haredim want it in August, MK Yulia Malinovsky of Yisrael Beiteinu said not one day before September.