With the third largest number of seats in last week’s Israeli election, Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman has emerged as something of a kingmaker. While his endorsement is no guarantee of a coalition, it seems unlikely either Kadima or Likud would be able to form a government without him. Its no surprise then that the controversial right-winger has some pretty lofty demands for his support.
In addition to his long-standing demands about the destruction of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, and easing the requirements for religious conversions and allowing civil unions, Lieberman wants a ministership. And not just any ministership: he wants either the foreign ministry or defense ministry portfolio.
Either position is enormously influential and would place Lieberman in the international spotlight in a way that will likely be uncomfortable to the next Israeli government. Benjamin Netanyahu had already ruled him out as defense minister, but replacing outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with such a controversial figure would no doubt weaken his government’s international standing.
Aides say Lieberman has no interest in being finance minister, a position previously hinted at by Likud figures. Even if he had been, there was some question of whether or not Lieberman would be eligible for the ministership, given the ongoing bribery and money laundering investigations against him.