Netanyahu and Lieberman sign coalition agreement, Lieberman to serve as Defense Minister, replacement for Ya’alon; Pension benefits reform negotiations still ongoing
Negotiations between Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “Likud” party and Avigdor Lieberman’s “Yisrael Beytenu” (Israel, Our Home) finalized negotiations on a coalition agreement Wednesday morning, both parties signing an agreement on a new government coalition to now include Yisrael Beytenu and appointing Lieberman as Israel’s Defense Minister.
Lieberman will replace former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon who resigned from his position last week. His appointment will be brought before Israel’s Parliament (the Knesset) next Tuesday.
Negotiations have been ongoing for the past week, Likud and Israeli Beytenu’s negotiation teams closing a deal Wednesday morning. Negotiations for a coalition were finalized overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, a meeting held Tuesday night between Netanyahu, Lieberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu party). Their meeting was focused on resolving disputes for a finalized coalition, issues including a proposed death penalty law for convicted terrorists, a proposal made by Lieberman and rejected by Kahlon’s party. Additionally issues surrounding pension reform were part of the negotiations, Kahlon pressing for increased pension benefits for all Israel’s elderly and immigrant population, contrary to Lieberman’s agenda for pension benefit reform for immigrants from the former Soviet Union on criteria such as years lived in Israel, retirement age etc.
Lieberman stated Wednesday morning that “We compromised on issues of religion and state and on death sentence to terrorists, but we will not compromise on two basic issues: the defense portfolio, and the pension reform,” Kahlon stating “Kulanu will not allow unruly behavior in any area, not economic, not political, not security. Kulanu will not allow the violation of the principle of equality. Everyone will receive this money – Arabs, Jews, immigrants and veterans. That is our agenda,” both clarifying their party’s agenda and ongoing negotiations in the future.
As part of the coalition agreement, Israel Beytenu will receive 1.4 billion NIS for its pension reform, as well as 150 million NIS for public housing allocation.
Prime Minister Netanyahu welcome MK Avigdor Liberman as Israel’s Defense Minister, stating on Wednesday morning “I welcome Avigdor Lieberman and his faction members as important partners to the coalition. I value his experiences; we’ve worked together before for the security and welfare of the people of Israel… Israel needs political stability to handle the challenges we face and to take advantage of the opportunities before us. I’m committed to advancing a peace process, I’m committed to making every effort to reach an accord.”
Netanyahu described the negotiations process and goals for the new coalition on Tuesday evening stating “We are working to expand the government, and we are doing so for the sake of our security and our economy. Thank God, we now have the revised natural gas framework, and we will produce gas for the good of the State of Israel and the welfare of Israeli citizens in all realms-security, economy, social welfare, energy and peace. We want and are working to promote a process of peace with security. These are not mere words; this is my policy, and I intend to advance it. To achieve all these aims, we must have as broad a coalition as possible. This is my goal, and it has always been my goal, and I hope that with your help and the help of God we will achieve it in the coming days.”