Liberman refuses to back Netanyahu - or Gantz - for PM

Yisrael Beytenu chief says party will not back Benny Gantz or Binyamin Netanyahu for PM, calls on Gantz not to bring Joint List into gov't.

David Rosenberg ,

Liberman at Sunday's press conference
Liberman at Sunday's press conference
Israel Beytenu

Yisrael Beytenu will refuse to recommend either Benny Gantz or Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister, party chairman MK Avidgor Liberman said at a press conference Sunday afternoon.

Speaking with reporters hours before a delegation from Yisrael Beytenu meets with President Reuven Rivlin at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, Liberman said his party would not give its backing to the leaders of either the Blue and White or the Likud.

During the press conference, Liberman reiterated his call for the Likud and Blue and White parties to form a national unity government, and to exclude the haredi parties and the “Messianic Right” from the coalition.

Liberman also said that Yisrael Beytenu would not sit in a Gantz-led government which includes the predominantly Arab Joint List party.

“The Joint List [MKs] are enemies,” said Liberman. “They aren’t political rivals,’ the former Defense Minister continued, contrasting the Joint List with haredi lawmakers, whom he described as ‘rivals’, but not ‘enemies’.

“Wherever they will be, we will be on the other side. I don’t want to waste words, but I remember how this same Ayman Odeh,” the chairman of the Joint List, “boycotted Shimon Peres’ funeral, and that same week visited Yasser Arafat’s grave in Ramallah. There is in the Israeli Knesset a party which wants to destroy us from within, and as far as I’m concerned, they’d be better off in the parliament in Ramallah, not in the Israeli Knesset.”

Without the support of Yisrael Beytenu’s eight MKs-elect, no candidate is likely to reach a 61-MK majority.

President Rivlin is currently meeting with party leaders in Jerusalem, asking which candidate the factions will back for the premiership.

The meetings began at 5:00 p.m. with consultations with the Blue and White party, with a Likud delegations expected to meet with Rivlin at 5:45, followed by a delegation from the predominantly Arab Joint List at 6:30, and a meeting with Shas leaders at 7:15. Yisrael Beytenu’s delegation is slated to meet with the president at 8:00 p.m. Sunday.

The remaining four parties will meet with Rivlin Monday, beginning at 10 a.m.

Currently, there are 55 MKs who are expected to back Netanyahu for the premiership, including the Likud party, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Yamina.

Benny Gantz is expected to win the backing of 44 MKs from his own Blue and White party, Labor-Gesher, and from the Democratic Union.

The Joint List, with its 13 MKs, is slated to vote on the matter Sunday, after a meeting between faction leaders failed to result in a decision on whether the list would recommend Gantz.

Should the party vote to recommend Gantz as prime minister, the Blue and White chief will have secured support from 57 MKs – two more than Netanyahu, but still below a 61-MK majority.