(JNS.org) Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that his Yisrael Beiteinu party will not be joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, and that he is resigning as foreign minister.
“We have come to a unanimous decision that it would not be right for us to join the coalition,” Lieberman told reporters, adding that “we chose our principles over cabinet seats.”
“Unfortunately, everything we wanted in coalition agreements and also that which we didn’t see brought me to the conclusion that the future will not be a government that serves national interests, but one that serves opportunists,” Lieberman said.
A fierce nationalist, Lieberman’s political power fell sharply in the recent Israeli election, as his party won only six seats in the new Knesset. While Netanyahu can still form a slim 61-seat Knesset majority without Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu’s absence will make holding together the coalition more difficult. Netanyahu currently has 46 Knesset seats lined up and is still in discussion with the Shas and Jewish Home parties ahead of a May 7 deadline for forming a coalition.
Despite his party joining Netanyahu’s Likud on a joint ticket in the 2013 Israeli election, Lieberman has been a fierce critic of Netanyahu. Last summer, Lieberman slammed the prime minister for what he considered a cautious approach during the Israel-Hamas war, advocating for deeper ground operations into Gaza to destroy the Palestinian terror group.
Lieberman, whose party largely represents secular Russian immigrants, has also criticized Netanyahu’s friendly position towards Israel’s haredi parties, whom Lieberman has criticized for their reluctance to serve in the military and their stances on issues like civil marriage.