Netanyahu appeals to Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu party to join coalition
Seeking to extend his slim lead in the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to ask the right-wing Israel Beiteinu party (Israel is our Home) to join his coalition.
If Israel Beiteinu does agree to join the coalition, it would extend Netanyahu’s majority from two seats to eight.
The party, however, is chaired by Avigdor Lieberman who refused to join the coalition following the elections in March of last year. Lieberman had said “Netanyahu doesn’t want me in the government, but he wants my votes; that’s a fundamental difference.”
Netanyahu on Sunday told the leaders of the coalition parties that for now the likelihood of the center-left Zionist Union party joining the coalition was low, however, he was optimistic about the chances of bringing in Israel Beiteinu.
“I intend to publicly call on Lieberman to join the government,” Netanyahu said.
“Leave Zoabi and join the government,” he added, referring to Haneen Zoabi, an MK with the Joint Arab List party who Lieberman often slams for her controversial actions or statements.
The Prime Minister also offered address the pension situation of Russian-speaking immigrants. Lieberman immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union in 1978 and has a large Russian speaking voter base.
Some officials see the attempt to reach out to Israel Beiteinu as a way to try to coerce Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog to join the coalition, rather than a sincere desire for Lieberman to bring his party into the fold.
An official from Netanyahu’s Likud party said that “the likelihood of bringing Lieberman into the government isn’t high; his demands are impossible.”
“If he genuinely wanted to join a right-wing government he would have done so long ago,” the official added.
Lieberman too dismissed the invitation as “spin.”
“Bibi just wants Isaac, the rest is rubbish,” Lieberman said using a nickname for the Prime Minsiter, according to Israel’s Channel 2.
Following the election, Lieberman said that his party had “reached the clear and unequivocal conclusion that it would not be right from our perspective to join the present coalition.”
In the 14 months since the elections Lieberman has often butted heads with Netanyahu, accusing the Prime Minister of being incapable of dealing with terror and refusing to attend votes for bills Netanyahu tried to push through the government.
A source close to Netanyahu said that “we never stopped trying to bring Herzog and Lieberman into the coalition, from the day Netanyahu presented his new government to the Knesset.”