Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman insisted Wednesday that his secular agenda must be adopted by the next coalition, hours after he called for a national unity government with Likud and Blue and White.
Initial election results indicate that without his party's support, neither Likud nor Blue and White have any hope of forming a narrow government.
Speaking to reporters outside his home in the settlement of Nokdim Wednesday, Liberman said he does not rule out joining a coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but his pre-election demands for a secular government remain in place.
Blue and White leaders continue to insist Netanyahu cannot be prime minister as long as corruption charges are pending against him.
"We will only join a wide, liberal national unity coalition," Liberman said, referring to the outgoing government's enforcement of religious laws and regulations on a predominantly secular Israeli society, exempting ultra-Orthodox men from compulsory military service, and giving in to funding demands that he called "extortion".
Liberman has cooperated in the past with the religious parties in Netanyahu-led coalitions.
With a projected nine seats in the incoming Knesset, Liberman made clear he draws the line at a coalition that relies on support from the Arab parties.
If final results mirror the exit polls, Arab parliamentary support from outside the government, along with Liberman's votes, could supply Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with a narrow coalition
There is no option of rejoining a right-wing religious coalition either, insists Liberman insists, whose refusal to enter a Netanyahu coalition after the April 2019 ballot led the prime minister’s Likud party to dissolve the newly elected Knesset and call snap elections.
"The hate speech during the campaign was directed at us from the ultra-Orthodox parties," he said. Liberman also said that the Haredi politicians’ vision of Israel in the coming decades is much different to his. "But they are not enemies," he conceded.
"The president must take a much more active role" in ensuring a new government is formed, the Yisrael Beytenu leader said Wednesday.
In his speech to supporters after exit polls were released lateTuesday, Liberman called on Rivlin to sit down with the two leading candidates even before final results were in to expedite formation of a unity government.
Rivlin said Tuesday night that his priority was the speedy formation of a new government and avoiding a third consecutive round of elections.