Israel’s former defense minister Liberman survives election

Many had written off Avigdor Liberman’s party but he is believed to have prevailed due to a strong base of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

By World Israel News Staff

Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party is poised to remain in the next Knesset after winning five seats in the 120-member parliament in Tuesday’s election, with nearly all the votes counted.

The party appeared to be out of the running based on pre-election surveys, which had widely shown Yisrael Beytenu falling below the 3.25% vote threshold required by Israeli law to enter the Knesset.

Liberman, 60, has built the party around a base of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union. He is from Moldavia. Pundits believe that it was his loyal base which ultimately saved the day to maintain the party’s representation in parliament.

His policies include a strong position against Palestinian terror. He served as defense minister during the term of the outgoing government but resigned in November saying that he wanted a stronger response to a barrage of air attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Despite his differences with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Liberman is expected to be willing to strongly consider joining a Netanyahu governing majority coalition in the Knesset. However, one of the challenges he would appear to be facing by joining such a coalition is the anticipated strength of Haredi religious parties in the government.

Due to the strong resistance to the Israeli religious establishment on the part of many of the immigrants who Liberman represents, Yisrael Beytenu has found itself at loggerheads in the past with Haredi parties when they promoted legislation relating to religious matters.

The horse trading which traditionally takes place after Israeli elections involves the drafting of policy guidelines for the incoming government which include a process of give-and-take and vague language which are aimed at allowing the different parties to sit together.

Liberman would have a more difficult time cooperating with an effort by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a government because Gantz and two other leading party members are former military chiefs, seen as reducing Liberman’s ability to maintain military clout in such a cabinet.

The Yisrael Beytenu leader has been publicly criticized by one of those former chiefs-of-staff, Moshe Ya’alon, who had served as defense minister under Netanyahu before Liberman had demanded to receive the post. It is believed that the animosity between them runs deep both personally and over policy.