Yisrael Beytenu chairman and former Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman suggested Friday morning that he is prepared to join a coalition government which includes the haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism – if certain demands are met.
Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu party refused to join a Netanyahu-led government five months ago over a dispute with haredi parties regarding a haredi draft law, is expected to receive eight seats in the 22nd Knesset, three more than in the outgoing Knesset.
Neither the right-wing – religious bloc nor the left-wing – Arab bloc has a clear path to the 61-seat majority needed without Yisrael Beytenu.
During the campaign, Liberman vowed to block the formation of a narrow right-wing government, calling instead for the formation of a secular national unity government led by the Likud and Blue and White parties which would exclude religious factions like Shas, United Torah Judaism, and even the national-religious Jewish Home party.
On Friday, however, Liberman said he would be willing sit with haredi lawmakers – on condition that the government back a series proposals which religious MKs have long opposed, including civil marriages, changes to the conversion system in Israel, and the expansion of an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“In recent days I’ve heard a surprising change in the discourse by the leaders of the haredi parties,” said Liberman. “They’re no longer using epithets against me like ‘Amalek’ and ‘Hitler’, and there are calls to end the hateful talk,” continued Liberman, who was outspoken in his criticism of haredi lawmakers and “Messianic” national-religious parties during the campaign.
“As far as we are concerned, and I’ve already said this in the past, the haredi parties are not our enemies, but are political rivals. We embrace different paths. They are from Beit Shammai, we from Beit Hillel.”
Liberman went on to list his demands for entering a government which includes haredi parties.
Passage of the haredi “draft law, as it is currently written; civil marriage; [permitting] conversions by local rabbis; re-approving the Western Wall deal; requiring haredi schools teach the ‘Liba’ curriculum [of secular subjects]; public transportation and the opening of minimarkets on the Sabbath. The last two issues will be left up to local authorities in every municipality, based on who lives in any given town. We won’t accept anything less than this, even if it means sitting in the opposition.”