For first time in weeks, Netanyahu, Bennett meet for coalition talks

Jerusalem Post
Fecha de publicación: 
18 Abr 2015
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett met on Friday in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem for the first time in three-and-a-half weeks as part of efforts to put together a government. The meeting took an hour-and-a-half and the two politicians agreed to continue the dialogue, a Bayit Yehudi spokesperson said.

Netanyahu will also meet Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman later today, as part of the coalition-forming process, now in its fourth week. Netanyahu has until Tuesday to form a government or ask President Reuven Rivlin for a two-week extension until May 6.

The Yisrael Beytenu chief on Friday promised to revamp Israeli-American ties, saying in an interview with Israel Radio that the "first task" of Israel's Foreign Ministry, once a coalition is formed, "will be to rehabilitate ties with the United States." 

"There is no doubt that the deterioration in relations between Israel and the US" will be the first order of business, said Liberman, who is seeking to stay in the Foreign Ministry. 

"We are going to pay a very high price" – in our relations with Europe, in the UN Security Council, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' legal push at the ICC – "without the cooperation of the US," he said, warning that "the stakes are very high."

Liberman slammed a measure by 16 European Union foreign ministers to label West Bank settlement products sold in European stores as "hypocrisy and cynicism," pointing to regional instability – from Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk to Yemen to Syria – that seemingly goes unnoticed by the officials.

He suggested the European leaders mark products from Judea and Samaria with a yellow Star of David, which "fit perfectly" with the sentiment of a letter they co-signed on Thursday calling for the legal labeling of items produced beyond the Green Line. 

Turning to domestic politics, the longtime Yisrael Beytenu leader ruled out a unity government with the centrist Zionist Union party, a move he said would "paralyze" governing, as "there is no ideological common ground with them." He also firmly rejected expanding the government beyond 18 ministers. 

Liberman debunked claims of infighting between his orbit and the right-wing Bayit Yehudi faction, calling them baseless "Likud spins" meant to satisfy the media. 

He also opposed changing the conversion law passed in the last Knesset that made it easier to convert to Judaism. The ultra-Orthodox parties have demanded significant changes, something he is against. 

The hot-button issue of portfolios and ministerial posts would not be raised during Friday's meeting with the Israeli premier, the minster said. Rather, talks would focus on policy matters, such as enacting a death penalty for terrorists. 

"We made a big mistake in Operation Protective Edge," Liberman responded to a question about disagreements with Netanyahu that simmered during the July-August war Israel fought against Hamas militants in Gaza. "It was a misstep to leave the coastal enclave with Hamas still in power."

The fact that the organization "is rearming, the fact that it is still shooting and smuggling weapons...that it is testing rockets and building tunnels" is an omen of things to come, he lamented. "The next confrontation is only a matter of time." 

But, "we cant have three million Israelis running to bomb shelters every two years," he said, before stating a demand: "And of the next government's goals will have to be toppling Hamas."


Gil Hoffman