Another Israeli Election, Unity or a Palace Coup: What Could Follow Lieberman’s Ultimatum

Avigdor Lieberman’s statement on Saturday night on Israel’s Channel 12 News had the political world spinning on Sunday as both Kahol Lavan and Likud are trying to understand: What does the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman want?

Likud thinks that Lieberman is persisting with his plan to bring down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and to this end, he’ll blame him for a third election or for establishing a leftist government with the support of the Arab-majority Joint List. In Kahol Lavan, they’re wondering whether Lieberman is actually preparing hearts and minds to backtrack on his pledge not to be part of an ultra-Orthodox government.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48Haaretz

The possible scenarios:

A unity government – Lieberman’s declared goal is a unity government and he has issued his ultimatum so as to form such a government. On the other hand, the sides don’t need Lieberman to declare a unity government, but are having trouble doing it. The main reason is the bad blood between the sides. Kahol Lavan doesn’t believe Netanyahu’s word. And Likud thinks that the more time that passes, the easier it will be to bend Kahol Lavan. The current situation is that the negotiating teams are discussing various versions of President Reuven Rivlin’s plan, that is, when Netanyahu would leave office and what the guarantees would be that he will do so. 

At the same time, Benny Gantz and his co-leader in Kahol Lavan MK Yair Lapid disagree over what to do. Gantz is willing to go for an improved Rivlin plan with significant guarantees; Lapid will not sit with Netanyahu at any price, including dismantling Kahol Lavan. Lieberman’s declaration can be a catalyst for compromise between Likud and Kahol Lavan, although this is unlikely.

A center-left government plus Joint List – If Gantz says yes to Lieberman’s demand and Netanyahu says no, what will apparently happen is that Lieberman will supposedly make good on his threat and support Gantz. The only government that Gantz can establish would consist of Kahol Lavan, Joint List, Labor-Gesher and Meretz, and Lieberman can decide to absent himself from the vote or support it. This is Netanyahu's nightmare scenario, as it would have him pack up and leave the official Balfour Street residence in Jerusalem in the next two weeks.

This move would be very surprising, given that Lieberman has led the fascist, racist line against the Joint List for a decade. In interviews, Yisrael Beiteinu has refused to say whether they would support such a government, and its representatives claim that there are “other options.” But even if Lieberman and Gantz agree on such a wedding, the bride – Joint List – has yet to be heard from. And Gantz’s annoying uncles, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, object to such a government and have threatened to vote against it.