Following Avigdor Liberman’s announcement that he is resigning from the Defense Ministry and taking Yisrael Beytenu out of the coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began talks with the leaders of the remaining coalition parties to try to keep his government stable. Bayit Yehudi officials said earlier that if Education Minister Naftali Bennett does not become defense minister, the party will quit the coalition.
“I am indeed here to announce my resignation from the position of defense minister,” Liberman said.
“I have tried to remain a faithful member of the Cabinet and to make heard another view, even at a great electoral and political price,” Liberman said. However, Tuesday’s ceasefire with Hamas “cannot be interpreted in any way other than a surrender to terror,” he added. “This will severely harm our security in the long term.”
“The response that we gave to the 500 rockets shot from Gaza was not enough, to say the least,” Liberman continued. “The south should come first. Our weakness is being broadcast to other fronts.”
Terrorists should not feel free to riot at the border or incite against Israel, Liberman added. “Hamas isn’t talking about coexistence and recognition of Israel,” he said. “They don’t want to reduce unemployment in Gaza.”
Liberman asked the coalition to act swiftly to decide on a date for new elections. “Don’t paralyze the country in the long term,” he said.
Asked why he did not quit after earlier ceasefires with Hamas, Liberman answered: “You can’t always get everything you want. As long as I could influence from the inside I stayed. There were turning points that no longer allowed me to fulfill my role in the cabinet.”
A senior Likud source said that there is no reason to call for elections, and that Netanyahu will retain the defense portfolio for himself, but the future of the coalition remains uncertain. The prime minister automatically retains any portfolio if a minister resigns, until he appoints someone else to it. Should Netanyahu remain defense minister, he will be the first person to hold that position, prime minister and foreign minister at the same time. He will also take on the Immigration Absorption Ministry, since Sofa Landver is leaving the coalition with Yisrael Beytenu.
Liberman’s announcement came less than 24 hours after the cabinet approved an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza. While the Prime Minister’s Office said that cabinet ministers had unanimously agreed to the decision, four ministers declared that they had opposed the cease-fire — Liberman, Jerusalem Affairs Minister and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi).
“The statement about Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s alleged support for stopping the attacks in Gaza is fake news,” Liberman’s office said in response to the Prime Minister’s Office announcement. “The defense minister’s stand is consistent and has not changed.”