Netanyahu appeals to Liberman: We have 48 hours to avoid election repeat
In address to nation, prime minister says he failed to convince Liberman to compromise over draft bill and prevent repeat elections; 'no need to drag the nation to needless elections that will cost a fortune'; preliminary vote to disperse Knesset passed earlier Monday
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation Monday evening and called on Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman to join his coalition government before the Wednesday night deadline. "I call on Avigdor Liberman to reconsider. We still have 48 hours, it’s possible to do many things in 48 hours," he said.
The prime minister said that in April, the nation went to the polls and expressed its will that a right-wing government be formed with him at its helm. "In recent days, I have made tremendous efforts to fulfill the will of the people… There is no reason to paralyze the nation for another year and a half and waste billions," Netanyahu said.
Earlier Monday, the Knesset held a preliminary vote to disperse the legislative assembly and head toward elections, less than a month after the 21st Knesset was sworn in. The vote passed 63 to 43. All parties that supported Netanyahu to lead the nation supported the motion, while the Blue and White Party led the opposition to the vote. The vote must still pass three more readings.
The prime minister and Liberman met today in order to try to find a solution to the deadlock over the IDF draft bill for Yeshiva students, an issue Liberman expressed little willingness to compromise on; the meeting however, was not very productive.
Netanyahu has until Wednesday to get his coalition agreements signed; if he fails to do so, President Reuven Rivlin can then task another lawmaker to try to put together his or her own coalition. This lawmaker does not have to be a party leader, or even a Knesset member from Likud.
The bill to dissolve the new Knesset was proposed by Likud MK Miki Zohar, a Netanyahu ally who has also pushed for a law amendment granting the prime minister immunity from prosecution despite looming charges in three corruption investigations.
Although Netanyahu nominally has the backing of 65 MKs, a row over the so-called Haredi draft bill has left him trying to find common ground with both the ultra-Orthodox parties that oppose the law and the vehemently secular Yisrael Beytenu, which is insisting that religious Jews who devote their lives to Torah study in yeshivas also carry out some form of national service.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said earlier Monday that he would not yield over keeping the legislation about the Haredi draft in its current form, and not bow to the religious parties' efforts to soften it. The party said it was willing to back another round of elections should the prime minister so choose.
Without Liberman's five Knesset seats he cannot form a majority government and would be forced to opt for a fragile coalition of just 60 lawmakers.
"I won't to be party to a Halachic government," Liberman said, referring to religious Jewish law.
"We've been making our position about the draft law clear since February 2018. It's obvious to everybody that this is a principle, and that's what the Likud Party is most afraid of."
He added: "They (the Likud) have to understand that this is a principle, it's not personal. It's not revenge."
According to Knesset rules, a bill can be debated within the 45-day waiting period once it has been submitted, if the Knesset House Committee is convinced that the draft legislation has importance or urgency.
The Blue and White party, which won 35 seats in the April 9 elections, putting on level pegging with Netanyahu's Likud, said it would not vote in favor of dissolving parliament, and called on Rivlin to invite its leader Benny Gantz to try to put together a coalition.
Gantz accused Likud lawmakers of being too scared to oppose Netanyahu's poltiical machinations.
"The silence of the Likud lambs is embarrassing, and their fear paralyzing," he said Monday. "We are witnessing dark days for the Likud Movement. They also bear responsibility for this current situation. It's worth tasking the Blue and White party under my leadership with forming a government."
Gantz's Blue and White co-chair, MK Yair Lapid added: "Let us form a government. The public wants a unity government. If Likud was led by someone other than Netanyahu, this would be possible."