“We are at the end of the Netanyahu era, I really hope he does all of us a favor and retires,” Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Liberman said at a Shabbat cultural event in the town of Shoham (pop. 21,000), east of Ben Gurion International Airport. Liberman stressed that “if Netanyahu retires – it would be very simple to form a coalition.”
As you may recall, the next Knesset elections will be held on March 2, in 16 days, and so far, all the polls are showing the same stalemate between the Right-Haredim and Left-Arabs blocs, with Liberman as the deciding vote. This would be a good place to remind everyone that the stalemate was largely caused by legislation pushed by Liberman which set the vote threshold at 3.25%, which means that a given slate must gain four seats before it can have one. This enormous burden has forced the forging a number of loosely assembled factions, most notably the Joint Arab List, which these days is expected to collect as many as 14 seats, if not more – the highest ever in Israel’s electoral history.
The same threshold has also threatened to eliminate three religious Zionist parties in the last two elections.
The Israel Beiteinu chairman continued to attack Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying that he did not understand the connection between Netanyahu and the right. “He sat down with Arafat and [Ahmad] Tibi and signed the Hebron agreement, and voted for the [Gush Katif, Gaza] disengagement,” Liberman said.
He added that while Netanyahu has surrendered to the Haredim, it’s his own party, Israel Beiteinu, which remains at the helm of the revisionist movement.
According to Liberman, it was Netanyahu who prevented Israel from imposing its sovereignty to the Jordan Valley.
He also said that in his opinion Blue&White Chairman Benny Gantz is “weak and confused,” and complained: “I haven’t yet figured out whether he is in favor of applying sovereignty over the Jordan Valley or not.”
The Likud (a.k.a. Yair Netanyahu) responded: “The cat is out of the bag. Liberman is going with the left along with Gantz and Ahmed Tibi, it’s final.”
Which is what the Likud (also a.k.a. Yair Netanyahu) has been saying about a lot of people recently, including journalist and editor of the Shabbat magazine Matzav Haruach Haggai Hoberman, who encouraged Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett not to ignore an invitation to join Gantz after March 2, should the prospective PM make him a good offer. This already marked Hoberman—whose settler’s credentials are impeccable—as a lefty in the Likud’s eyes, and proved that Bennett was plotting to unseat Netanyahu.
But Israel Beiteinu Chairman Liberman did emphasize a number of times that he has no objection to sitting in government alongside Labor-Meretz and sees no reason to disqualify personalities such as Amir Peretz or former Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan (read: IDF General Who Said Israel Reminds Him of Nazi Germany Says Left May Have to Man Barricades).
“There is no more Meretz,” Liberman said. “Meretz is part of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz bloc (which includes Orly Abekasis, daughter of former Likud minister David Levy). Once there is no more Meretz, it makes things very easy.”
On Facebook, Liberman suggested that today’s Meretz is only a small part of the last remaining leftwing faction.
Liberman posted on Facebook that Golan “suffers from an internal dissonance. As a battlefield fighter, he was one of the best we knew, but when he appears before an audience, he speaks ceaseless nonsense. But no one is perfect, and you can’t put him on the ‘disqualified to marry’ list.”
“Disqualified to marry” is a Jew who is prevented from marrying a kosher Jew according to Jewish law, for example because he is a mamzer (his mother bore him to a man other than her husband). To implement this restriction, the Chief Rabbinate maintains the “list of those who are disqualified to marry.” This was another Liberman tongue-in-cheek, for which he is famous. Incidentally, while pushing for a complete loosening of religious laws in Israel, Liberman lives happily with his Orthodox, Shabbat observant wife, Ellah, in Nokdim, Gush Etzion.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page yesterday, Liberman said he had “no problem sitting in a coalition with the United Meretz-Bridge-Meretz list.
MK Omar Bar-Lev of Labor-Gesher-Meretz said at a Shabbat event in Be’er Sheva that there would be nothing wrong with a Gantz government that would be supported by the Joint Arab List, which would not have a ministerial representation. He noted that United Torah Judaism is not a Zionist party either, and yet it is considered a legitimate coalition partner.
And what would happen should there be a conflict between the Gantz Zionist agenda and the political aspirations of former advisor to Yasser Arafat and Joint Arab List co-chairman, MK Ahmad Tibi, how would that be settled?
The only reason the Haredim have been able to function well within leftwing and rightwing coalition governments was that they didn’t care about the Zionist agenda – all they wanted was money for their constituency. This is not even close to describing the Joint Arab List’s agenda. Had they been willing to be bought off with a few billion shekels, they could be part of a Likud coalition long ago. But their agenda is the dismantling of the Jewish state. How much does it cost to buy off that one?
The other Joint Arab List co-chairman, MK Ayman Odeh, confirmed at the Be’er Sheva event that Gantz could not form a government without the joint list. Odeh also said that he did not yet know what’s the true Blue&White platform:
“If it is in the direction of peace, democracy, Arab-Jewish rapprochement – we will seriously consider supporting Gantz. But if it is in the direction of a unilateral annexation and other rightwing ideas – we will not recommend Gantz nor support him,” Odeh said.
On Friday, Liberman stated that his party would not cooperate with the Joint Arab List, even indirectly.
It comes down to this: should Blue&White build up a considerable gap ahead of the Likud, this would likely result in the Haredim and Yamina deserting Netanyahu, at which point Gantz won’t need the Arabs, nor would he have much use for Liberman.
But should Netanyahu manage to stay within a seat or two of Blue&White, Israel may end up going into its fourth election campaign in less than 18 months.