Netanyahu Coalition In Crisis Over Liberman Resignation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman speak at the Knesset in Jerusalem

TEL AVIV – Israel’s governing coalition hung in the balance Wednesday in the wake of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s announcement that he was resigning over Israel’s “capitulation to terror” by agreeing to a ceasefire with the Hamas rulers of Gaza, and his subsequent call for new elections.

“I am here to announce my resignation from the government,” Liberman said.

“What happened yesterday, the ceasefire, together with the deal with Hamas, is a capitulation to terror. There is no other way of explaining it,” he added.

Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza arrived at a ceasefire agreement after close to 500 rockets and mortars were fired over the border toward Israeli territory.

“What we are doing right now is buying quiet for a heavy price with no long-term plan to reduce violence toward us,” he said of the ceasefire deal.

He added that the IDF did not respond harshly enough.

“To put it lightly, our response was drastically lacking to the 500 rockets fired at us,” he said.

Liberman also slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he “fundamentally disagreed with him” — and pointed to the government’s decision to allow $15 million in cash to be transferred from the Qatari government to Hamas on Friday.

“I opposed it. The prime minister needed to write an executive order for it to go above my head,” Liberman claimed.

He added that the money was not used for humanitarian purposes, rather it went toward compensation to the families of Hamas terrorists killed on the Gaza border in clashes with the IDF, as well as funding the production of more missiles.

“I could not remain [in office] and still be able to look residents of the south in the eye,” he said.

Meanwhile, a statement from the ruling Likud party said the government would complete its term and the defense portfolio would go to Netanyahu, who apart from serving as premier, also holds the foreign minister post. In addition, Netanyahu will take the helm of the Immigration Absorption Ministry, since current minister Sofa Landver will leave the coalition with Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party.

Officials from the Jewish Home party threatened that if their chairman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, does not become defense minister, they would also quit the coalition.

Two other likely challengers for the defense portfolio are Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter.

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