Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday night’s Meet the Press on Channel 12 that he believes Likud would find an alternative candidate for prime minister, if Benjamin Netanyahu fails to form a government after the September 17 election.
“I am sure that if the Likud realizes that Netanyahu is again unable to form a government,” Liberman said, “they will produce an alternative candidate.”
He said that if Netanyahu and Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz were not prepared to form a broad unity government, “I will go to members of the Likud and tell them: ‘Bring someone else in for a broad government.'”
In the interview, Liberman said, “I believe that Yuli Edelstein is a personality who can lead the party.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, 61, was born in Chernivtsi in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine) and was one of the most notorious Zionist refuseniks. He made aliyah in 1987 and was first elected to the Knesset in 1996 on the slate of fellow Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky’s Yisrael Ba’Aliyah, which later merged with Likud. He is considered one of the most rightwing Likud MKs, but his gracious demeanor has made him many friends across the aisle. Until recently he has been on the presidential tract, to replace Reuven Rivlin when the latter’s second term is up. But Edelstein could be just the leader to take Israel’s largest party to a new, post-Netanyahu era.
After his wide’s death in 2014, Edelstein married Irina Nevzlin, the daughter of Russian-Israeli billionaire Leonid Nevzlin. Irina is chair of the Board of Directors of The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot and President of the NADAV Foundation. Like the late Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Edelstein is more likely to be on the give than on the take.
“I feel sorry for the prime minister,” Liberman told Meet the Press. “The fact that he has to lie every day and every hour means that his situation is desperate. I urge Netanyahu to come to a debate; let’s talk here like the man from Caesarea and the man from Nokdim.”
That last part was a jibe at Bibi, who lives in a million dollar villa on the seashore, compared to Evet Liberman who lives in a settlement in Judea.
“I make a commitment – I will adjust myself to his schedule,” Liberman dared his nemesis, adding, “He won’t come because he’s scared.”
Liberman served as Director-General of the Likud party when Netanyahu was running for the PM’s office in 1996, and after he had won, Liberman served as Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office from 1996 to 1997. That’s when he was let go over his objections to Netanyahu’s concessions to the PLO in the Wye River Memorandum.
Liberman also said in the interview that he would join a unity government between Blue&White and Likud, with no other partnerst: “We need a broad national government. Israel Beiteinu, Likud, Blue&White. Not with the Haredim, not with the Messianists (meaning United Right) and not with Meretz. There is only one option and I am sure it will be realized.”
“We’ll have to be big to force ourselves on both sides,” Liberman said, meaning Israel Beiteinu.
Liberman related that one Likud top minister had called him and apologized for attacking him in interviews, he has to do it because otherwise he’d ‘catch flack.'”
The Likud responded to Liberman’s attacks saying: “The cat is out of the bag, Liberman ahs dragged the country to a frenzy of repeat elections just because of his desire to be prime minister. Today he has admitted his desire is to be a prime minister in a rotation with Gantz.”
Which is not such an immoral thing, come to think of it. Liberman is entitled to his political desires.
The Israel Beiteinu chairman addressed a news Channel 12 poll that came out Saturday night, according to which 59% of the public opposes a unity government. “It’s not interesting,” he said. “Polls should be taken with a grain of salt, both when they’re good and when they’re less good.”
Words to live by.