Deal Sought to Allow Lieberman to Temporarily Replace Netanyahu in Exchange for Early Polls

Deal Sought to Allow Lieberman to Temporarily Replace Netanyahu in Exchange for Early Polls

Monday, 28 May, 2018 - 11:30
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Tel Aviv. (Reuters)
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majali
At a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been stirring up an atmosphere of war against Iran, contrary to the desire of the army and the majority of intelligence services, efforts are being exerted in Tel Aviv to bring forward the date of parliamentary elections.

This will help boost his image before the public as he battle corruption cases that have been piling up against him by the police and prosecution.

Given the fierce opposition Netanyahu is facing from his closest allies on the right and the far-right, he has been trying to reach a deal with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that will provide him with the required majority to dissolve the Knesset (Israeli parliament) within the next two months and head towards new elections.

The deal relies on the position of religious parties that oppose mandatory military service being imposed on religious Jews.

According to the expected scenario, these parties will insist on drafting a law that reduces the chances of imposing mandatory enlistment on religious youths. Lieberman will be expected to vote against it and withdraw from the government coalition, granting Netanyahu a minority government that relies on 61 of the 120 deputies.

To this end, Lieberman wants a deal under which Netanyahu promises to include his party in the Likud to form a single bloc. He also wants the creation of the post of "acting prime minister", to which he will be appointed, while also retaining his post as defense minister.

Should the police and the prosecution insist on trying and indicting Netanyahu in corruption cases, Lieberman will then replace him as premier and vow to back him in his judicial fight.

Circles close to the two officials confirmed that the deal is viable, but key sources in the ruling Likud party have strongly rejected it.

They explained that a Likud-Lieberman alliance was struck in the 2012, but failed miserably in the elections, winning no more than 31 seats. Both parties were represented by 42 seats before the elections, 27 for the Likud and 15 for Lieberman. The alliance fell apart in 2014.

Key Likud leaders oppose an alliance because it will eliminate their chances of replacing Netanyahu. They have declared that such a deal, and under this condition, will bring about the end of the Likud as a historic party for the right, in favor of Lieberman, the opportunist.

Despite the opposition, Netanyahu is insisting on trying to find a way to bring forward the date of the elections. He does not want to repeat the mistake of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who resigned as soon as the prosecution announced its intention to indict him for corruption.

He believes that the best way for him is to confront the police and the prosecution from his position as prime minister, and according to opinion polls, the elections will allow him to boost his power.

He is trying to confront the party's internal opposition and believes that even if he was put on trial, he needs a prime minister loyal to him. In such a scenario, he will find no figure more loyal than Lieberman, who himself had waged a long bitter battle with the police and prosecution over corruption cases.

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