Approval for a coalition of 60 lawmakers in the 120-strong Knesset would only be possible if Lieberman is absent from the vote to approve the new government. If the former defense minister does attend and votes against the new government, Netanyahu will not get the Knesset's approval. However, he is not likely to do so as he could be blamed for sabotaging a potential rightist government.
A similar scenario with Lieberman, who is ultimately expected to join the coalition, took place during the last Knesset. In 2015 Netanyahu formed a coalition of 61 MKs, and enlarged it later to 67 when Lieberman and his party joined, following long negotiations over their demands.
Lieberman's current demands from Netanyahu — such as his opposition to the new version of the Haredi draft law, which would exempt most of the ultra-Orthodox public from serving in the IDF — contradict those of other coalitionary partners, especially the ultra-Orthodox parties.
The Yisrael Beytenu chief said he will not be meeting with Netanyahu or his chief coalition negotiator Yariv Levin until his demands are accepted.
However, despite the disagreements between Netanyahu and Lieberman, the Yisrael Beytenu leader said Thursday he would support two controversial bills the prime minister plans to push: the cancellation of a law limiting the number of government ministers, and the so-called Norwegian law, which allows ministers or deputy ministers to resign their Knesset seat, while still holding on to their ministry, so that their seat cam go to the next person on the party list.
Yisrael Beytenu officials said Thursday that Lieberman will support these bills "even if he finds himself in the opposition, as an expression of good will." Lieberman also agreed to support the Likud's candidate for state comptroller, in an attempt to ease tensions over the negotiations.
Unnamed Likud officials said that Lieberman's behavior puzzled Netanyahu and Levin, and that he seemed to be "looking for an alibi not to be part of the government." However, they added that Lieberman is not likely to join forces with the opposition either, so as not to appear to be hampering a rightist government.
"Those who are hunting for culprits in the event that a rightist coalition is not established should look in the mirror," Lieberman said Wednesday, after the negotiations between him and Netanyahu reached a dead end.
Negotiations with the other five small parties expected to join the coalition have also failed to reach an agreement so far, as the prime minister called their demands "impossible" and "entirely contradictory" in a speech in a memorial event in Atilt on Wednesday.
Netanyahu said that small parties are demanding "four (government) roles for each of their four MKs," and that he "cannot give in to demands that would cause the state budget and economy to collapse."
The United Torah Judaism party postponed its meeting with the negotiating team for a second time this week due to internal differences over the Haredi draft law, and as such there has been no progress regarding which government posts it would receive.
Shas is the only party that currently has an understanding with the Likud Party regarding the future coalition; its leader Aryeh Deri met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, and officials say that an agreement, including three ministries for the party, is on its way to being signed.