With elections on the horizon – yet again – MK Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, has come up with a new proposal that may yet succeed in actualizing his long-term dream of creating a national and secular government, and would also boost his chances of playing a significant role in Israel’s political future, especially in light of recent polls that show his party losing support following Gideon Sa’ars establishment of a new political entity, New Hope.
His new idea is to unite parties on the right and center into a bloc that could pose a real threat to the Likud party under the leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu. Toward this end, he has made overtures to the leaders of three parties (so far) – to Naftali Bennett (Yamina), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), and Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) – and is suggesting that they establish a joint list that will compete against Netanyahu in the coming elections.
Interestingly, despite promising on numerous occasions never to join a coalition with "Messianics" (referring to MKs from the National Religious sector such as MK Betzalel Smotrich), Liberman apparently sees no issue in joining with Naftali Bennett, suggesting that he is also hoping to split the Yamina party into its component factions and separate its more liberal elements from the "settlers" among them.
In his letter sent to the three party leaders, Liberman notes that he is aware of the disagreements on various significant issues between the three, but that he still believes it possible to find points of agreement on certain basic principles that will enable them to unite.
“Establishing a liberal and Zionist coalition is the great need of the day,” he writes, “especially in light of the growing cooperation between Binyamin Netanyahu and representatives of the Islamic Movement. If we succeed in establishing a large bloc, it could become a genuine alternative that will replace the Netanyahu regime. I believe that a majority of Israeli citizens is truly waiting for such a revolution to occur in Israeli politics, and it would also be a revolution that will propel the State of Israel toward new achievements and enable it to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world.”
He notes that, “The situation in which we currently find ourselves obligates us all to ensure the future of the State of Israel as a Zionist and liberal state. Today, the non-Zionist elements in the Knesset – the Joint List, Shas, and United Torah Judaism – represent slightly more than a quarter of the population, that is to say, 31 MKs.”
Among the ideas Liberman is proposing is limiting the tenure of a prime minister to ten years (over two terms), drafting a constitution, and setting up a special constitutional court.
He also proposes that any agreement reached between the parties should include significant changes in the sphere of religion and state, such as allowing civil marriages, operating public transportation on Shabbat, requiring all schools to teach the core curriculum, enacting reforms in conversions, and passing a new Draft Law.
Liberman declares himself optimistic that the divisions between the parties he has approached can be overcome and a joint list created. “I am approaching you with a very simple and also practical suggestion, one which you will all be able to see your ways to agreeing to, if we can concur on fundamental issues that enable the establishment of a Zionist and liberal center-right bloc,” he concludes.