Lieberman, a Stand Against Israel’s Transition into a Fundamentalist and Financially Unsustainable Country

An election campaign poster showing Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman over the caption, 'Right-wing, and secular too,' in Jerusalem on April 2, 2019, ahead of the April 9 general elections. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Liberman’s stand against ultra-Orthodox coercion sees him gaining popularity

Hardline ex-defense minister has relied on support from Russian-speaking Israelis, but polls show his refusal to capitulate to demands of religious parties is widening his appeal

AFP — In a former hotel turned social housing building for elderly Israelis from the former Soviet Union, one politician remains more popular than all others.

“Here, the vast majority of people vote (Avigdor) Liberman,” said Nadejda Yermononok, 75, referring to the gruff hardline leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party.

At the “Diplomat” building housing more than 400 people in southern Israel, residents call the ex-defense minister Yvet, the Russian version of his first name.

He has done so in part with his stand against ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, which he accuses of seeking to force religious law onto Israel’s secular population.

He has also been seeking to end exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox from performing mandatory military service like most other Jewish Israelis.

In many ways, Liberman is the reason Israel is holding another election only five months after the polls in April, unprecedented in the country’s history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority of seats in April, but Lieberman prevented his old nemesis from forming a coalition.

‘Only one who fights’

Liberman refused to agree to a coalition deal that did not include legislation that would seek to have the ultra-Orthodox serve in the military.

That was a deal-breaker for the ultra-Orthodox parties, which would have been an important part of the coalition.

Netanyahu opted for fresh polls rather than risk the possibility of President Reuven Rivlin selecting someone else to try to form a government.

And he harshly criticized Liberman, who headed the premier’s office during Netanyahu’s first term in the 1990s.

Liberman resigned as defense minister in November over a Gaza ceasefire deal that he called a “capitulation to terror.”

Most of Israel’s Russian-speaking population arrived in the 1990s, and those with origins in the former Soviet Union now make up some 12 percent of the country’s nearly nine-million-strong population.

ermononok said Liberman “is the only one who fights the special treatment the ultra-Orthodox get” from the state — echoing a common complaint from secular Israelis.

They “don’t work, don’t serve in the army, receive child benefits and all sorts of discounts in transportation, municipal taxes and education,” the former nurse said.

“Other Israelis, including the Russians, work like crazy, pay their taxes and send their children to combat units.”

Ultra-Orthodox men have been exempted from military service to devote themselves to religious studies since the creation of Israel in 1948 when there were only a few hundred to enjoy that privilege.

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A Changing of the Guard in Israel Necessary for Accountability – Keeping Israel from Radicalization

Avigdor Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu in conversation with the Jerusalem Post

LIBERMAN TO DEMAND HEALTH, INTERIOR MINISTRIES

Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman declared Tuesday night that his party would seek the interior and health ministries in the next government, two portfolios currently held by leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

He took direct aim at current head of the health minister Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman by describing Israel’s health system as “very sick” and said that the interior ministry must be wrested from the hands of current minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri to restore “normalcy” to matters of religion and state in the country. 

Liberman also vowed not recommend any candidate to form a coalition after the next election if they do not promise to establish a national unity government without the ultra-Orthodox, Arab parties, and left wing and right wing parties. 

Speaking at Yisrael Beytenu’s convention of central committee members in Tel Aviv, Liberman took fierce aim at the haredi political parties, in particular Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman promising to replace him with a respected professor of medicine. 

He also promised to cut child subsidy payments for a fifth child and upwards, saying that large proportions of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab population do not work because child subsidies make it too financially viable not to seek employment. 

“The occupation of the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs is basically to have children and for their children to have more children, and it is bringing us to the point of collapse,” said Liberman. 

The Yisrael Beytenu chairman made sweeping promises about what his party would demand in the coming government, including a a raft of measures “to restore Israel to normalcy” on matters of religion and state. 

Liberman said that after the elections he would demand the interior ministry for Yisrael Beytenu so as to dismantle local religious councils which currently provide religious services such as marriage registration, kashrut supervision and many others, and replace them with a department for religious services in local government authorities instead.

He also said that obtaining the interior ministry was crucial to allowing local municipal authorities the right to decide if they want more grocery stores and other commercial activities available in their jurisdictions and vowed to overturn the so called “mini-mart law” advocated by the haredi parties which stops local authorities from making such a decision. 

And Liberman said he would demand his party get the health ministry and would appoint Prof. Leonid Eidelman, currently president of the World Medical Association as minister, saying Israel’s health system needed “a professional” to deal with its challenges. 

Liberman’s comments seemed designed to provoke Litzman who is fiercely defensive of his record as minister and has spoken proudly of his achievements there. 

In promises which will further antagonize the ultra-Orthodox parties, the Yisrael Beytenu chairman promised he would demand that haredi schools teach core curriculum subjects such as English and Maths, as part of his conditions of entering a new government. 

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