TEL AVIV – The Israeli Knesset voted to dissolve itself just after midnight Thursday, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to blame “left” Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman for “dragging the country to unnecessary elections.”
“Avigdor Liberman is now part of the left. He brings down right-wing governments. Don’t believe him again. I will tell you about it tomorrow. Maybe I will tell you some things you don’t know. He deceived the electorate just to get votes,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said he had won the April 9 elections, with the right-wing bloc securing a clear majority of seats. He vowed that he would come out on top in the next election too.
“The public in Israel made a clear decision. It decided that I will be prime minister, that the Likud will lead the government, a right-wing government. The public voted for me to lead the State of Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters according to translation by the Times of Israel.
“Many of the parties said they will support Netanyahu. And the public made a clear statement. … Liberman said he would support me as prime minister but he had no intention from the first moment to do what he said he would do,” Netanyahu said.
“All of the requests and demands of Yisrael Beytenu were repeatedly rejected. I presented a proposal. He rejected it. He wanted, in the most clear way, to bring down the government. He did it to scrape a few more seats which he thinks he can get. For the second time he has dragged the country to unnecessary elections due to his own political ego,” he continued.
In November of last year, Liberman resigned as defense minister over a dispute with Netanyahu regarding the latter’s policy towards the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas.
MKs voted 74 to 45 in favor of Likud’s bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset and hold new elections on September 17, preventing President Reuven Rivlin from asking someone else to form a government.
The Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Union of Right-Wing Parties and two Arab-Israeli parties, Ra’am-Balad and Hadash-Ta’al, voted in favor of dispersal.
With less than two hours to the midnight deadline, Netanyahu agreed to adopt Yisrael Beytenu’s version of a bill to draft ultra-Orthodox youth into the army, but at the same time promised his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners that there would be negotiations before the legislation’s passage — only to be rejected by Lieberman.
The text of the bill originally drafted by Liberman would remain unchanged, Likud said in a statement, but after approval the second and third readings would need to receive “mutual consent” from the ultra-Orthodox.
“Maybe we’ll support someone else instead of the Likud to form the government,” United Torah Judaism said according to Channel 12.
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beytenu said, “Our view is well known and unchanged.”
“We repeatedly said we want the original [haredi] enlistment bill, nothing else,” Liberman said. “People claiming that there’s a compromise, when it was just 10mm of movement, is not familiar with the bill.”
Liberman also accused Netanyahu of “surrendering to the haredim.”
“Everyone with a brain understands that our view is principled, not revenge or anything else,” he said. “I have never seen someone who won an election so convincingly not reach an agreement with any party. They are trying to take the easy way out and blame it on me. If Likud wants to blame someone, they should look in the mirror.”
He also accused the prime minister of wanting to create a “Halachic state,” referring to the term for Jewish law.
“I would like to emphasize once again that I am not a vengeful person,” Liberman said. “I am not looking to bring down the prime minister, and I have worked for quite a few years alongside Benjamin Netanyahu and have weathered all the arguments and disputes between us. I am in favor of the State of Israel, I am in favor of a Jewish state, but I am not in favor of a Halachic state.”