Deri says would even court Liberman for potential coalition: ‘Willing to forgive’
Shas leader Areyh Deri said in excerpts of an interview published Thursday that he would even be willing to accept Yisrael Beytenu’s staunchly secular Avigdor Liberman into a potential new government.
Deri and Liberman have frequently clashed over the years, trading accusations of racism and antisemitism. The two previously served together as ministers under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Deri’s comments the shock resignation of coalition whip Idit Silman on Wednesday, a move that deprived the government of its parliamentary majority. Silman’s announcement has led to murmurs of further potential defections from party members as the opposition tries to find a path back to power.
“We have a majority with Gideon Sa’ar [and his New Hope party] and Yamina. If they come home and say we were wrong, we wanted revenge, we had nerves, but we’re back home — believe me we will not remind them a minute later that they were wrong. I will take care of it,” Deri said in an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, which is set to be published in full on Friday.
“We will accept them with absolute love. Come back to us, let’s form a government and they’ll get senior positions,” added the ultra-Orthodox party leader
The Shas leader is no longer an MK, having resigned from parliament earlier this year before signing a plea for a 12-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of NIS 180,000 for tax offenses. His resignation enabled him to dodge a conviction of moral turpitude that would have barred him from office for several years as part of a plea. This was the second conviction of his political career; he served prison time for the first.
“Will everything be erased for them? I will erase everything for them, I will make sure that they receive the best respect they can. Netanyahu will also receive them with love. I will tell you even more than that, even if Yvet Liberman wants to come back — please tell him, come,” Deri said, using the Russian version of the Yisrael Beytenu leader’s first name.
When the interviewer questioned the mention of Liberman, noting Deri has called him “the worst things in the world,” the Shas leader doubled down.
“If he wants to enter the coalition and be a part of us together it is possible,” Deri said. “I am willing to forgive, all to form a normal government.”
Silman’s announcement shook Israeli politics on Wednesday. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a meeting with lawmakers from his Yamina party, in which he said that Silman “broke” after months of pressure from supporters of Netanyahu and far-right Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich.
Hebrew media reports indicated the atmosphere at the meeting was tense, with MKs accusing the premier of neglecting his party’s core values and adopting a far too centrist approach since taking office.
Hours after that gathering, a separate meeting was held between Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Deputy Minister Abir Kara and MK Nir Orbach to discuss their steps. According to the Walla news site, the three agreed to act in coordination in the coming days.
Channel 12 news reported that Kara had held discussions with Silman and was seriously considering quitting the coalition himself. And multiple media reports said Orbach lashed out at the prime minister at the earlier meeting, accusing him of neglecting his party’s ideology.
Likud has been pushing for further defections from Yamina, hoping to force Bennett’s right-center-left-Arab alliance out of office.
A Yesh Atid lawmaker said Thursday that while Silman’s resignation from the government did not come as a shock, she believes the Yamina MK should have resigned and given up her Knesset seat to someone further down the party’s slate.
“I was not surprised by Silman’s retirement. I thought she was strong, but in the end we are all human, and she couldn’t stand it. I’m disappointed, if you do not agree with the ideology of your party – go home and release the seat,” Merav Ben-Ari told Army Radio.
With more defectors, the opposition could potentially topple the government and seek to establish a new coalition in this Knesset, or vote to dissolve the Knesset and bring the country to its fifth election cycle since 2019, though the paths to either of these two options are complicated.
Silman’s announcement means the government will only be able to pass legislation with support from opposition lawmakers. The only party that would perhaps provide it with votes for some legislation would be the Joint List of predominantly Arab factions, but its support would only serve to further alienate coalition members on the right.
If the government is unable to restore its majority, the two leading scenarios for change are either going to elections or creating a new government within the Knesset.