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Opposition member Liberman says Netanyahu offered him position of defense minister, Likud denies

Liberman: New elections necessary as Netanyahu ‘only concerned with political survival’

Israel Beytenu party chairman MK Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on May 27, 2024 (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).

Right-wing opposition politician Avigdor Liberman on Sunday claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered him the post of defense minister over the previous weekend. 

In an interview with Ynet News, the head of the Yisrael Beytenu party stated there had been offers for his party to join the coalition.  

Netanyahu’s Likud party denied the claim, saying, “There was no such proposal.” 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attacked Netanyahu over his lack of a clear plan for post-war Gaza last month, saying, “Indecision, is in essence, a decision.” 

Gallant called on Netanyahu to “make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza strip.” 

Since then, several coalition ministers have attacked Gallant and called on Netanyahu to replace him. 

During the interview released on Sunday, Liberman, who served as Netanyahu’s defense minister between 2016 and 2018, said he is unwilling to join the coalition government. 

“You can't fix it anymore,” Liberman said. "I was already Netanyahu's defense minister and resigned. Don't fall into the same trap twice.” He resigned over disagreements with Netanyahu in 2018 over the fighting against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After two days of intense fighting, Netanyahu accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, while Liberman had advocated a large-scale operation against the terrorist organization. 

While serving as defense minister, Liberman drafted a top-secret defense document about Hamas' plans to burst through the southern border and invade Israeli communities. Parts of the document were released in Hebrew media following the Oct. 7 surprise invasion and terror attack in southern Israel. 

“Hamas intends to take the conflict into Israeli territory by sending a significant number of well-trained forces (like the Nukhba for example) into Israel to try and capture an Israeli community (or maybe even several communities) on the Gaza border and take hostages. Beyond the physical harm to the people, this will also lead to significant harm to the morale and feelings of the citizens of Israel,” the document read. 

At the time, Liberman urged the Israeli military to increase operations against Hamas to “ensure that the next conflict with Hamas would be the last.” Liberman reportedly resigned after his advice was not heeded.

“After all, why did I resign? Because of this concept, because of the unwillingness to deal with threats in a real way,” Liberman continued. 

During the interview on Sunday, Liberman said the only solution is to have early elections. 

“As long as Netanyahu is at the top of the pyramid, there is no chance of rehabilitation. The government is not concerned with anything, neither economy nor security – only political survival,” he said.

He also referred to a meeting with other opposition parties last week, including Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, and New Hope party head Gideon Sa’ar, which he described as a “war room” designed to topple the coalition government. 

Liberman said he hoped that “other bodies will also join,” and specifically mentioned War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz. 

“I very much hope that Gantz will indeed switch to the opposition and stop serving as a fig leaf for this crazy government,” Liberman stated. 

Last month, Gantz threatened to leave the coalition if Netanyahu did not formulate a clear plan for the post-war situation in Gaza and the return of evacuees to Israel’s northern communities. 

He said the “war room” has been operating vigorously since it began. 

The Yisrael Beytenu leader said the first opportunity will come with the ultra-Orthodox draft exemption law, which the coalition aims to pass before July 31. 

“Our first big test is the test of the draft exemption law, which, as I said, the government will bring to the Knesset next week,” he said. “If the proposal passes, it will dismantle Israeli society.” 

“I do not think they will have a majority,” he stated, adding: “We are talking and meeting not only with Likud members but also with Knesset members from other parties in the coalition.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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