Lieberman Flies Abroad, Leaves Netanyahu and Livni to Sweat


610x1MK Avigdor Lieberman, who holds the key to the makeup of the next government in Israel, has flown abroad with that key in his pocket, leaving his suitors from Kadima and Likud – as well as the Israeli public – in the dark about his intentions. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party received 15 Knesset seats in the election February 10, and is generally seen as the party that will decide which of the two largest factions, Kadima or Likud, will get the first stab at forming a coalition.”Our position is already clear and I know exactly what I am going to tell President Shimon Peres,” Lieberman told Voice of Israel government-run radio Thursday morning, before leaving Israel for a vacation that will last several days. “[But] in order to know whom we are going to recommend, we will wait six more days,” Lieberman added, tantalizing his interviewer. “I think it is too early and there is no point saying whom we support. I have met with both Livni and Netanyahu and with additional people in the political system but my position is already clear and solid. When we go to the President we will say very clear things,” he said.

Lieberman said immediately after the election results were published that his faction’s “tendency of heart” is to support a nationalist government. Making things complicated is the fact that the police are conducting a high-profile fraud investigation against Lieberman, and leaks from that probe indicate that there is solid evidence against him. Since the prosecution, police and courts in Israel are widely seen as being controlled by the radical Left, the investigation against Lieberman has caused many pundits, both professional and amateur, to speculate that Lieberman will be railroaded into supporting Kadima.

Another possibility is that Lieberman will support Likud but will make it impossible for its leader Binyamin Netanyahu to form a coalition with the religious parties, by insisting on implementation of the part of his platform that the religious cannot agree to, including the legalization of civil unions as an alternative to marriages sanctioned by the rabbinical establishment.

A report in Ma’ariv said that Lieberman holds a grudge against Shas for the belligerent election campaign it waged against him.

Some observers note, however, that Lieberman will be creating even greater problems for himself if he does anything but support Netanyahu for Prime Minister. Lieberman’s voters, supporters, and members of his Knesset list are no-nonsense right-wingers, they claim, and they will take any decision that prevents the formation of nationalist government as an act of betrayal by their leader.

One of Lieberman’s reported conditions for joining Netanyahu’s government is that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann will remain in his position. This, too, is being interpreted in different ways. The more straightforward interpretation is that Lieberman, who sees the Supreme Court as a bastion of defeatist leftism, wants Friedmann to continue his reforms of that institution. A much more machiavellian interpretation – advanced by the Tzofar website – is that Liebermann is offering the legal establishment a deal: he will agree to let them have a Justice Minister to their liking, like Likud’s Dan Meridor, who is considered close to Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish, and in return, the investigation against him will be closed.

Yet another possibility being floated is that Lieberman will name himself as his favored candidate for prime minister. Lieberman, himself, however, told a reporter for Ynet that this was unlikely.

Israeli media is rife with spin, counterspin and anti-counterspin this weekend, as the post-election picture begins to come into focus. Ma’ariv reported Friday that there are behind-the-scenes contacts between Kadima and Likud for the creation of a coalition between these two parties and Labor. Channel 2’s political pundit Amnon Abramovich floated this plan on the eve of the election and news anchorwoman Yonit Levi dubbed it “the Abramovich Initiative.” According to Abramovich and like-minded journalists, the initiative will make it possible for Netanyahu to form a ‘moderate’ coalition and avoid a more ‘radical’ government which would – they claim – alienate the United States administration.

In Kadima, however, there are voices calling upon chairwoman Tzipi Livni to head for the opposition “proudly” and not to agree to become a “fifth wheel” in a Likud coalition. These voices – one of whom is reportedly Vice Prime Minister Chaim Ramon – believe that the Likud’s coalition will crumble after 18 months’ time, leaving Kadima to win the next election.

{Yair Israel/Arutz Sheva}