Israeli Opposition Leaders Join Avigdor Lieberman in Call for Early Elections

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman listens during a news conference after his talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
AP/Ivan Sekretarev

TEL AVIV – Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni joined the chorus calling for new elections in the wake of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s snap resignation over the government’s “capitulation to terror” by reaching a ceasefire deal with Hamas. 

Liberman called for elections to be set “as soon as possible.”

With Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party quitting the coalition, Netanyahu will be left with 61 seats — a majority of one.

Meanwhile, officials from the Jewish Home party threatened that if the party’s chairman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, does not become defense minister, it too would quit the coalition.

Gabbay called it “a day of hope” and said that the precarious situation between Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been simmering for a while and it was only a matter of time before there was an “explosion.” He added that Liberman’s announcement would set off a process of change that the country greatly needed.

“After the explosion there will be a process of change, a process of recovery,” Gabbay said. “I call for elections now, there is no other solution, it’s time for a big, big move, toward a process of unity.”

He added that Liberman was “totally unsuited to the post of defense minister.”

Livni said it was “an important day” in which Liberman unwittingly “opened the door” for change.

She acknowledged, however, that Liberman was correct in his assessment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Liberman is right, the king is naked and he revealed what we already knew for a long time, namely, that this government is impotent when it comes to terror,” she said, in an apparent mocking of the premier’s derogatory moniker, King Bibi.

She accused the government of “abandoning the residents of the south” and providing “zero security.”

Former defense minister and prime minister Ehud Barak echoed Livni’s words, saying in reference to Netanyahu, “The emperor has no clothes. … This is the beginning of the end.”

He seemed to compliment Liberman, however, saying his resignation showed “independence and consistency.”

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said Liberman’s resignation proved that Netanyahu has “no solution to Gaza.”

“Today, the quest began for the return of security, responsibility, and leadership to the State of Israel. Yesh Atid is ready. I am ready,” he stated, as if new elections were a fait accompli.

Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing Meretz party, slammed Liberman for being a racist and a key part of the most racist government in Israel’s history.

“It’s a blessing that we have gotten rid of Liberman, the racist and corrupt minister who debased Israeli politics. All the government ministers must follow in his footsteps,” she said

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Aryeh Deri praised Liberman for serving his country faithfully: “The resignation of my friend Avigdor Liberman from the role of defense minister saddens me. Liberman served faithfully, devotedly, and extremely professionally, and his resignation weakens the government.”

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

Liberman bitterly opposed the move, calling it “capitulation to terror,” prompting his resignation.

“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 said in a press conference Wednesday.

“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 also blamed the IDF for not responding more forcefully to the barrage.

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

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

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