JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has dissolved the partnership between the political party he heads, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Liberman made the announcement Monday after days of disagreement between the two party leaders over how to respond to the recent onslaught of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud ran together in the last general Knesset elections in 2013 but are permitted to separate once elected.
The separation means that the ruling Likud now has 20 Knesset seats, one more than the centrist Yesh Atid headed by Yair Lapid.
Liberman informed Netanyahu of his decision on Monday morning, a day after the two leaders publicly argued at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
During the meeting Netanyahu, according to reports, reprimanded Cabinet members who spoke out publicly against the government’s reaction to the situation in Gaza.
Netanyahu reportedly chided Liberman, who has publicly criticized Netanyahu for holding back in responding more forcefully to Gaza attacks, for missing two Cabinet meetings during which the Gaza situation was discussed. Liberman was acting in his capacity as foreign minister during both of the missed meetings.
Liberman told reporters Monday that there have been longstanding differences between the leaders and that it was preventing them from working together.
“Disagreements between the prime minister and me are fundamental and do not allow for a future partnership,” Liberman said. “The partnership did not work during the elections, it did not work after the elections and to this day there were quite a few technical issues. When technical issues turn to fundamental ones, there is no point in continuing.”
Liberman said his party will remain in the government coalition. He reportedly also is trying to shore up his party’s and his personal sagging poll numbers.