Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman
Finance Minister Avigdor LibermanShalev Shalom/TPS

With rumors swirling with regard to the likelihood of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signing a plea bargain and retiring from political life, many are those wondering if the country is headed if not for elections then for a shake-up in the government, with opposition members joining the coalition.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman addressed the possibility of the haredi parties joining the government, telling Reshet Bet that he was adamantly opposed to either Shas or United Torah Judaism being part of the coalition.

“At this point in time, we will oppose every attempt to add Shas or United Torah Judaism to the government,” Liberman said. “I want for us first to pass all the compromises we agreed on in the coalition accords, such as conversion reform, drafting of yeshiva students to the IDF, and reducing the age of exemption. Every attempt until now to reach an agreement with the haredi parties on these issues has failed,” he added.

Asked to comment on the latest wave of the coronavirus, largely due to the Omicron variant, and its impact on Israel’s economy, Liberman insisted he was not unduly concerned.

“Right now it’s the 20th of January, and I don’t think that we’re going to reach a dangerous situation within the next 20 days,” he said. “A year ago, we were in lockdown and we finished 2021 in the best place, a place we could only dream of at the beginning of that year. Of course people and businesses have suffered damage, and my thoughts are with them, but by and large the economy is not in bad shape.”

He added that, “There is no sense in continuing to use the Green Pass system – it is not relevant in the current situation. People are prepared to take more personal responsibility as regards masks and vaccines. And it isn’t right to force healthy children into quarantine just because they were exposed to a Covid-19 case in school.”

On Tuesday, MK Yitzhak Pindrus of the UTJ party told Radio 103FM that his party had “no intention” of joining the Bennett government. “This is a dysfunctional government that can’t reach a decision on anything unless it concerns harming issues of state and religion. This is a government that should cease to exist.”

MK Pindrus then clarified his position, saying, “The reason why we are in the ‘faith-based’ bloc [gushhama’amin, whose parties mostly represent traditional and religious voters] is nothing to do with one person or another, not even someone as highly respected as Netanyahu. We will only establish a government whose essence is traditional, a faith-based coalition. We will not join the current government – we will either overthrow it, or replace it via some other means.”

Asked to comment on the crowdfunding campaign to raise money to cover former Prime Minister Netanyahu’s legal expenses, Pindrus said, “Yinon Magal [who initiated the campaign] did a great thing, and it was the correct thing to do. We should all be grateful to a man who has done so much for the country. G-d willing I will make a donation.”