Ahead of recommendations to the president about about who should potentially lead the next government, former prime minister Ehud Barak, who ran unsuccessfully with the Democratic Camp party, on Sunday slammed likely coalition kingmaker Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman as “the opposite of a liberal” and accused him of playing the political field to obtain the premiership for himself. (Barak was in 10th slot on the Democratic Party list, and it won only five seats.)
Liberman’s secularist, largely Russian-speaking party won eight seats in the September 17 election, far fewer than Blue and White’s 33 or Likud’s 31. But neither of the larger parties has a clear path to a majority coalition, sparking speculation they will be forced into a unity coalition, and a frenetic round of jostling by smaller parties hoping to make the cut into the next government.
Liberman, for his part, premised his election campaign on the promise to “force” the two large parties to join in a “secular unity government” sans the ultra-Orthodox factions. Liberman also said during the campaign he would back the larger party, and not lean automatically toward his longtime coalition partner Likud. But following the election, he seemed to backtrack from supporting either party.
“There is no sign now that he is prepared to carry out his original commitment to recommend the larger party — nor his intention, which he announced [ahead of the election] to force Likud to replace Netanyahu,” Barak charged.
“Liberman’s stuttering over recommending Gantz should raise serious suspicions that he’s not really pushing for a broad unity government led by Gantz without Netanyahu. He seems to want both to fail, a failure that by law will enable any MK who can muster 61 supporters [in parliament] to demand a chance at forming a government.”
Barak continued: “His assessment seems to be that the fear of a third election [within a year] in early 2020 will drive the Knesset to choose the lesser evil: a government led by him.”
Barak warned against the “new excitement on the center-left” over Liberman’s demand for a secular government, which was “nothing more than a sweet summer fantasy, which will sour or evaporate by the fall. He’s no liberal, never was and never will be. The opposite.
“His only positive contribution could be to enable, through his recommendation of Gantz, the formation of a narrow and short-lived government without Likud. Such a government would lead immediately to the end of Netanyahu’s candidacy. That in turn would allow the government’s expansion [to include Likud], but led by Gantz and with Liberman as a member, not as its head.”
According to all-but-final election results, Liberman holds the key to forming the next government following a political deadlock between Likud and Blue and White