As the Israeli coalition crisis enters its final hours, Knesset member and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said Wednesday morning during an interview on Israel’s Army Radio that should new elections be held, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party would “disappear.”
Lieberman’s refusal to compromise on his demand for the passing of a bill regulating the military draft among the ultra-Orthodox is the main sticking point in the coalition talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until 12 p.m. to inform President Reuven Rivlin whether he has succeeded in forming a coalition. A bill authorizing the dissolution of the Knesset has already passed its first reading and been approved by a special committee for second and third readings, which are expected to be held sometime today if no coalition deal is reached. Once the bill passes, new elections can be called, for which a tentative Sept. 17 date has already been set.
The Israeli political reality, said Hotovely, in which numerous small parties all pursue their own narrow interests, “needs to be condensed into two large parties.” “If they can do it in the United States,” she said, “then every [Israeli] Zionist party can find itself a place in the ruling party.” However, she added, “in the coming elections, Yisrael Beiteinu will disappear.”
On the other hand, MK Oded Forer, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu coalition negotiation team, told Army Radio: “If people have not yet understood that we are a faction with principles we will not give up on, they have a problem with reading comprehension.”
Forer attacked the Likud, saying, “The party I know is disappearing. The behavior of its people during these negotiations has demonstrated that it is not the Likud of the nationalist camp, but [a party willing to] sell everything for another minute in power.” He reiterated, however, that his party “only supports a Netanyahu government.”
Meanwhile, United Torah Judaism leaders Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman and Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Rabbi Moshe Gafni attacked Lieberman this morning over his refusal to compromise on the draft law issue even if it means sending the country to new elections.
In a joint statement, Gafni and Litzman accused Lieberman of “cynically” using the draft law issue to score political points at the country’s expense.
“We’re talking about totally pointless elections here, for which there is absolutely no need. But should Avigdor Lieberman’s insistence on cynically using the so-called draft law to pursue his political interests vis-à-vis Prime Minister Netanyahu sends us to new elections, the unity and cooperation between Agudath Israel and Degel Hatorah—to which UTJ owes the results of the previous election—will continue in the new one, [with our fervent prayers] and hopes of a great success with the help of God. ”
The UTJ leaders also announced their intent to recommend Netanyahu to President Rivlin as prime minister following a new election. It was also agreed that should the 21st Knesset be dissolved, Agudath Israel and Degel Hatorah, which comprise UTJ, would run together in the current configuration.
Lieberman, for his part, said he was “amazed” by the amount of pressure being applied due to the crisis, and emphasized that he was not motivated by a desire for vengeance against Netanyahu.
“Even I, Avigdor Lieberman, who have been in Israeli politics for many years and thought I had seen everything, have been amazed over the past two days by the intensity of the pressures, interpretations and speculations I have been exposed to almost every minute,” he said. “I would like to emphasize once again that I am not a vengeful man, am not pursuing a vendetta and am not looking to bring down the prime minister. On the contrary—I have worked for quite a few years alongside Benjamin Netanyahu, and for all the arguments and disputes we have had, I respect the man. I am in favor of the State of Israel, I am in favor of a Jewish state—but I am against a halachic state.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.