Netanyahu thinks that Liberman may respond to pressure from the U.S., Israeli officials say.
In a brief speech to the press on Monday at the Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against “unnecessary elections” and called for all parties to act responsibly. To bolster his argument, he noted that President Donald Trump himself had expressed his hopes that a coalition would be formed.
A strong U.S.-Israel relationship carries weight with the Israeli public and Netanyahu is hoping, also with Avigdor Liberman, the main holdout to forming a government. According to Maariv, Netanyahu wants members of the Trump administration to step in and pressure Liberman to join the coalition.
Liberman of the Israel Beiteinu party so far stubbornly refuses to do so. Though Netanyahu’s Likud party increased its power to 35 seats in parliament in the April 9 vote, it can’t muster a 61-seat majority without Lieberman’s party. Failure to form a government means the country would again go to elections, an unheard-of event in Israel.
However, Israeli officials told Maariv that Netanyahu thinks the Trump card may work with Liberman, who will be asked to join the government out of “national responsibility.”
On Monday, Trump tweeted his hopes “things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!”
The U.S. is interested in seeing Netanyahu form his government in order to move the Trump peace plan forward.
The Trump administration announced earlier this month that it will unveil the first phase of its long-awaited blueprint for Mideast peace in June at a conference in Bahrain. The administration was assuming that Netanyahu would have a stable coalition in place by then.
The Likud has assailed Liberman in recent days for undermining the people’s will for a right-wing government and accused him of acting out of personal spite for Netanyahu. The prime minister himself said Lieberman would be fully responsible for dragging the country to an “expensive, wasteful” election and his people have vowed to aggressively go after Lieberman’s core supporters in response.
But the mercurial Liberman seems to be holding his ground.
“The only motivation of Israel Beiteinu is to stand by our principles and our commitments,” he said in a Facebook post. “We are not looking to topple Netanyahu and are not looking for an alternative candidate, but we will not compromise.”
The crisis ostensibly revolves around Lieberman’s insistence that current legislation mandating that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military goes through the Knesset voting process without a single modification or alteration to the bill.
Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox parties consider conscription a taboo, fearing that military service will lead to immersion in secularism. Although exemptions have led to widespread resentment among non-religious Israelis, the Haredi parties insist they stay in place.
Source: World Israel News