Kingmaker Liberman says ultra-Orthodox parties are ‘not the enemy’

Liberman says that his Israel Beytenu party “will be fine whether in the coalition or the opposition.”

By World Israel News Staff

With the results of Tuesday’s Knesset election nearly complete, and the split among the public quite clear, the Israeli political scene entered the weekend with a word of reconciliation from the politician dubbed the kingmaker, MK Avigdor Liberman, the head of the Israel Beytenu party.

Liberman said in a Facebook post on Friday that Haredi religious parties are only “political rivals” and “not the enemy.”

He was reiterating that point, he said, in reaction to signs from within the Haredi factions that they were prepared to drop their own political rhetoric.

Israelis went to the polls this week after Liberman refused to join a government coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the heels of April’s parliamentary election because of the influence that religious coercion, as he viewed it, would have in the government’s policy guidelines.

Liberman is considered a kingmaker because he could make or break Netanyahu again this time, with Israel Beytenu’s eight seats, and give challenger MK Benny Gantz a greater chance to form a government if he gives Gantz his endorsement to become prime minister.

While final results will not be officially submitted until next week, the nearly final tally shows Blue and White, headed by Gantz, winning the largest Knesset representation with 33 seats in the 120-member parliament. Netanyahu’s Likud party follows close behind with 31 seats.

Despite finishing second, Netanyahu is seen as having an easier path ideologically toward achieving a governing majority with other parties in the Knesset, though because of the split in the parliament’s composition, there have been calls for a unity government.

Netanyahu and Gantz have both spoken in favor of unity but have different ideas of how to achieve it.

President Reuven Rivlin is scheduled to begin holding consultations on Sunday with the parties elected into parliament in order to hear from them who they would support as prime minister.

Based on the recommendations, Rivlin will then give the nod to the MK considered to have the best chance of forming a coalition.

Liberman denied Friday that he had already reached a deal with Blue and White on joining forces in a government.  In his Facebook post, he said that he had not spoken to either Netanyahu or Gantz.

Liberman asserted that Israel Beytenu “will be fine whether in the coalition or the opposition.”