Netanyahu campaign sets sights on Liberman voters

The prime minister will focus on pulling Russian voters from Liberman’s base. He met with his ‘Russian team’ on Monday, many of them formerly of Liberman’s party.

By World Israel News Staff 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the warpath against Avigdor Liberman – head of the Israel Beiteinu party – promising to focus on Russian voters this campaign in an effort to pull them out of Liberman’s orbit.

It’s logical that Netanyahu would set his sights on Liberman, the man who brought about the collapse of his government when he quit as defense minister in November 2018 and then prevented the formation of a new coalition after the April election.

Early in the morning of May 30, moments after the Knesset voted to call for a second election to take place in September, Netanyahu angrily began his assault on Liberman, charging that by preventing the formation of a right-wing government, the Israel Beiteinu leader had shown that he “is now part of the left. You give him votes for the right and he doesn’t vote for a right-wing government. He brings down right-wing governments,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister stuck to that message on Monday as he met “with more than 20 public officials who left Israel Beiteinu and today joined the Likud,” a post on the prime minister’s Facebook page said.

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“Liberman wants Blue and White to be the largest” faction in the Knesset, the prime minister told members of the group, who surrounded a table in the video post. Blue and White, a center-left party, won 35 seats in the Knesset in April, tying the Likud.

In addition to trying to stick the left-wing label on Liberman, Netanyahu argued that Liberman hasn’t looked out for the interests of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, even though his party was founded to support the massive wave of newcomers from the former Soviet republics.

The 61-year-old Liberman, himself from the Soviet Union, immigrated to Israel with his parents in 1978.

At Monday’s meeting, Netanyahu had cabinet minister Ze’ev Elkin from the Ukraine sitting at his side, a symbol of an immigrant who has made it to the senior ranks of the Likud.

“Liberman has only talked for 20 years but hasn’t done anything,” Netanyahu told the Israel Beiteinu breakaways.

The prime minister pledged to continue fighting for the immigrants, advancing such causes as public housing and pension benefits.

Public opinion polls show that Netanyahu may be even more vulnerable to Liberman in September. Liberman may increase his Knesset seats from five to nine.

Liberman has made several arguments against joining a Netanyahu-led government. First, he says that the prime minister is beholden to ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, parties who want to run the state according to Torah law, imposing their wishes on Israel’s secular public. Liberman has staked a position opposed to such parties, saying that he wants a wide nationalist government that will not include any haredim.

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The Israel Beiteinu leader also says that Netanyahu is not really a right-wing leader, having failed to eliminate the Hamas threat from Gaza, instead paying “protection” money, and having not removed an illegal Bedouin settlement situated on Israeli territory.

The failure to demolish that outpost is seen by right-wing voters as a symbol of the government’s inability to enforce its sovereignty, which they view as under threat from Palestinian and other forces.