Lieberman ends political partnership with Netanyahu
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman announced Monday afternoon that his Yisrael Beytenu faction was splitting from Likud.
Liberman called a press conference to announce the dissolution of the union, saying that his differences of opinion with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have made a continued partnership impossible.
He emphasized that the split does not stem from political considerations, but rather from differing opinions in the field of security and defense, particularly Netanyahu's handling of continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Liberman added ,however, that he has no intention of leaving the governing coalition and does not seek to advance early elections.
The foreign minister said that the current coalition is the best alternative available, and that calling new elections would not change the makeup of the Knesset and its Left and Right blocs.
Netanyahu traded sharp barbs at Sunday’s cabinet meeting with Liberman, who over the weekend slammed what he said was Israel’s tepid response to the rocket fire from Gaza.
“The central objective of the government is to stop the firing on the communities in the South, but the argument over the way to do this should not seep out of the cabinet,” Netanyahu said. He added that certain ministers – a reference to Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett – were showing a lack of responsibility and sowing frustration and a lack of confidence in the security establishment.
“There is no need to engage in populism,” Netanyahu continued. “There are ministers who are taking advantage of the situation to attack me and the government. This is irresponsible and damaging.”
A poll by the Geocartography Institute predicted in January of this year that if Likud and Yisrael Beytenu run separately in the next election, they will win 39 and 16 Knesset seats, respectively, for a total of 55 in the 120-member chamber.