Liberman agrees to speed up talks for minority government

The Israel Beiteinu appears ready to sit with a government that rests on the Arab vote.

By World Israel News Staff

Avigdor Liberman of the Israel Beiteinu party has agreed to accelerate negotiations to establish a minority government, one what would rest on the Arab vote, Israel Hayom reports on Sunday.

The Blue and White party confirmed on Saturday night that talks are advancing to establish such a government, Israel Hayom reports.

It is a major about-face for Liberman, who has called the Arab Joint List a “5th column” and has said he won’t sit in a government that relies on them.

The Arab List, for its part, has expressed its reluctance to sit with Liberman, whom they’ve called a racist.

On Sunday, Israel Hayom reports that a senior official of the Arab List said, “All the speculation and assumptions that we will support a minority government led by Gantz along with Yvette Lieberman are another spin from the House of Bibi Netanyahu.”

This fits with earlier statements from Joint List members. Mtanes Shehadeh, the chairman of Balad, one of the Arab parties that makes up the Joint List, said he will  “never sit in a government ruled by Liberman, who coined the term ‘no citizenship without loyalty.'”

Still, it’s an open question whether these strange bedfellows will overcome their mutual distaste for one another out of their greater distaste for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As Ahmed Tibi, chairman of the Ta’al party, another member of the Joint List, said in an interview on Sunday’s “This Morning” program on Kan Reshet Bet: “The [Joint] list is ready to do a lot within its electoral principles and promises to remove Netanyahu – the inciter and liar – provided there are gains for the Arab sector.”

However, one sticking point is whether enough Arab members will overcome their hatred for Liberman to vote for giving him a cabinet position – a necessary condition for his support, Israel Hayom reports.

The term, minority government, refers to the fact that it would rest on less than the minimum 61 Knesset seat majority. In this case, it would consist of 47 Knesset seats and would rely on the Arab Knesset members. They would not be officially part of the government, but would tacitly support it from outside.

What makes a minority government appear to be more of a possibility is the fact that a unity government, in which the Likud and Blue and White would join together, appears no closer, at least based on harsh statements from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

On Saturday evening, after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, Gantz said in reply to comments by Netanyahu, “I saw that you used the term ’emergency situation’ because there’s a chance your rule will end soon.”

“The emergency situation is 100 missiles on the citizens of the State of Israel. Netanyahu, take to heart: I will do everything to prevent you from dragging  Israel to a third round of elections,” Gantz said.

Similarly, after Gantz met Liberman last Thursday, he said, “To the best of my judgment, Netanyahu is protecting his bloc and striving for elections.”

Gantz has until Wednesday to form a government. On that day, his mandate to do so expires.