Lieberman urges Likud–Blue and White coalition

Avigdor Lieberman Photo: AP Photo/Oded Balilty

THE politician famous for warning that Israel is headed towards theocracy is saying that the country’s only hope is for a unity government.

Avigdor Lieberman’s declaration has shaken up the campaign for the September election, which is just getting started. 

Lieberman aligned himself with the Prime Minister ahead of the April vote, but in a shock announcement he just indicated that he wants Netanyahu ousted.

He is now calling for an “emergency government” comprised of Blue and White and Likud. This is being interpreted as a manoeuvre to unseat Netanyahu, as Lieberman knows that Blue and White will only sit with Likud if Netanyahu is replaced as leader.

The declaration quickly forged an unexpected alliance between the rightist Lieberman and the centrist Blue and White. “A unity government headed by Blue and White is the right thing for Israel,” said Yair Lapid, co-head of Blue and White, saying that he is “glad” that Lieberman reached the same conclusion.

The new allies have pitted themselves against two common enemies: Netanyahu and the Charedi parties. One of the main aims of Lieberman’s plan for a unity government is to eliminate ultra-Orthodox power from the next government. 

Aryeh Deri, leader of the religious Shas party, hit out at Lieberman as “nervous, hysterical, and trying to gather votes”. The Charedi news site Kikar Shabbat claimed that Lieberman is using Charedi parties as a “punchbag” to get attention.

Lieberman wants to exclude various other politicians from a unity government as well as Charedi parties. He wants to keep out Labour, Meretz, the Arab parties and the more radical wing of United Right. 

Lieberman, a one-time Netanyahu aide, is in the throes of a bitter feud with his former boss. He refused to join the government that Netanyahu tried to build after the April election, in a row that led to the new election being called for September.

He claims that Netanyahu is in the pocket of Shas and another Charedi party, and says he stood in the way of a new government because it would not have got many more Charedim serving in the army. 

Lieberman has since complained that Netanyahu is ready to give so much power to Charedi parties that they will start a path to theocracy. He claims now that a unity coalition is needed “in order to prevent the establishment of a halachic government and to guarantee the people of Israel a national and liberal government that can cope with all the budgetary and security challenges.”

NATHAN JEFFAY