Yisrael Beytenu Chairman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, announced Monday that his faction is splitting off from Likud's and will be independent from it from now on, as was the case before the two factions united in 2012.
Liberman added, however, that his faction would remain loyal to the Coalition.
“We are the last people who would want the Coalition dismantled,” he explained. “The establishment of the [independent] Yisrael Beytenu faction is a meaningful step for strengthening the Coalition.”
"From the outset, this has been a multifarious Coalition,” he added. “The gaps between [Jewish Home MK] Orit Struk and [Yesh Atid Health Minister] Yael German, or between [Hatnua MK] Amram Mitzna and [Jewish Home Housing Minister] Uri Ariel are unprecedented ones."
Liberman also promised that his faction would vote with the government in no-confidence votes.
"It is no secret that in the recent period there are disagreements between me and the prime minister,” Liberman said. “They have become disagreements on matters of principle and substance, such that do not make it possible to continue the partnership called Likud-Beytenu.”
"We will turn to the Knesset's House Committee in the course of the next few days and ask to part ways and establish a separate faction, Yisrael Beytenu. The truth is that the connection did not work during the elections and after the elections, there have been many technical problems until now, but when technical problems becoime substance, there is no point anymore in hiding the matter.”
Instead of a single faction with 31 Knesset seats, there will now be two: Likud with 20, and Yisrael Beytenu with 11.
The split between Netanyahu and Liberman was expected a long time ago, if only because polls predict that they will garner more Knesset seats apart than together. Liberman may also be worried by polls showing the Jewish Home's Naftali Bennett gathering strength as a right wing alternative to Netanyahu, and at the expense of Liberman's party.
Liberman appears to have chosen the timing for the split in a way that makes it seem purely ideological, however. He and Netanyahu clashed in Sunday's Cabinet meeting, with Liberman accusing Netanyahu of failing to deliver on his campaign promises to strike Hamas hard, and opting instead for a ceasefire.
Netanyahu said at the session that he was not happy to hear ministers publicly attacking the government's policy in Gaza in the news. He apparently was referring mostly to Liberman.
"You are the last one who can talk,” retorted Liberman. “You held a news conference before the Cabinet session. The things I say are my consistent line. I am not taking advantage of the situation. You said 'a strong hand against Hamas' and you failed to deliver on this. Do not grade me on my statements.”
Liberman also addressed the situation in Gaza and explained that since the IDF's Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012, Hamas has restocked itself with hundreds of missiles that have a range of 80 km. By the end of 2015, he added, this number will have reached the thousands. “This must be stopped,” he stated.