Likud's coalition negotiator: Rotation is natural

Minister Levin discusses Yisrael Beytenu talks with Arutz Sheva, explains portfolio shakeup will be within Likud.

Benny Tocker,

Yariv Levin
Yariv Levin
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Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), who is managing the negotiations with MK Avigdor Liberman to bring his Yisrael Beytenu party into the coalition, spoke to Arutz Sheva on Thursday morning ahead of a meeting with Liberman.

According to Levin, Yisrael Beytenu's entry will not affect the portfolios of existing coalition members.

"It's no secret that I would be happy to receive the role of Justice Minister, but I reason that we need to reduce the upheavals as much as possible," said Levin.

"I see no reason to take a portfolio that was held by a partner of ours; Jewish Home certainly won't be harmed by this process and we will not take any portfolios away from it. There is an advantage that most of the ministers will continue in their roles. The right thing to do is to maintain the existing coalition structure with our partners."

However, the minister acknowledged that there would be a shakeup within the Likud party.

"It is clear that within Likud there will be a rotation of portfolios, currently there are two portfolios available and two ministries that will be transferred to Yisrael Beytenu," he said, indicating the Defense and Immigration Ministries. "The Prime Minister will conduct this rotation, and I also have patience like everyone else."

Referencing reports that Liberman's request to take over the post of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) was accepted, Levin said, "I heard talk about 'dismissing' the Defense Minister, this talk is out of place, we have no possession over any ministry and it is natural that there be a rotation of appointments."

No religious war

Levin sought to assure the religious and haredi parties that there would be no changes on matters of religion and state, regardless of Liberman's preferred policies.

"Three months ago Yisrael Beytenu announced that it will be willing to enter (the coalition) only on a basis of far-reaching changes in issues of religion and the state, matrimonial partnership, a return of the Yesh Atid recipe for the equal burden (haredi enlistment) law and more," said the minister.

"We didn't agree to these things, because it would have split up the government. The agreement today with Liberman is clear: none of these things (regarding religion) will be done without the agreement of all our (coalition) partners, we stand strongly on everything being firm and valid."

He added that Liberman went along with the conditions, saying, "we signed these issues without a lot of arguments and certainly that's how things should be. Avidor Liberman also said directly and courageously that he understands that he can't receive all of his demands, and from that moment it is clear that we can complete the negotiations."

The minister said that with the narrowest possible majority of 61 MKs the coalition had not been able to properly get work done, but now with Liberman's additional six seats he reasoned it would be far more stable.

At a press conference yesterday, Liberman himself made clear he would not make demands vis-a-vis religion and state which would go against pre-existing coalition deals with the haredi parties.

Liberman for Defense Minister

Levin said he is convinced that Liberman is worthy of being Defense Minister.

"In the past there were military men (who were) defense ministers who didn't succeed so well, I think that Liberman is rich in experience, he served six years as Foreign Minister, (and) was chairperson of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for a significant period."

Speaking about Ya'alon's predicted ouster from the Defense Ministry, he said, "'Boogie' Ya'alon did and contributed a lot for the state of Israel, and will continue to contribute as a senior official in Likud."

"It is no secret that I have significant differences of opinion with Ya'alon, but we knew how to debate them in a businesslike manner and not disparagingly. He will continue to be an important part of the establishment."

While saying that Yisrael Beytenu should have been brought in from the beginning, he said there was no attempt to harm the leftist Zionist Union through the negotiations with them on a unity government. Many have speculated in light of Liberman's imminent entry that the negotiations with Zionist Union were just meant to sow discord among Likud's leftist rivals.

"An honest negotiation was held (with them). It was clear all the time that we were talking about them joining the existing government, and if Zionist Union was capable of coming a good part of that way the door was open. I estimated that the chances weren't great."

"Let it be said in the merit of (Zionist Union head) Yitzhak Herzog that his stubbornness was on substantial matters within issues of principle, and of course we did not agree to them," concluded Levin.