• Liberman agreed to form teams to negotiate post, official says
  • Labor’s Herzog says adding Liberman would ‘verge on insanity’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to name one of his strongest political rivals, Avigdor Liberman, as defense minister in a bid to broaden his razor-thin coalition, a government official said.

Liberman, chairman of the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and Netanyahu’s former foreign minister, agreed with the premier to form teams that will negotiate his joining the Likud party-led government, which controls just 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment publicly.

The 57-year-old Liberman and his party’s other five lawmakers would strengthen Netanyahu as he seeks passage of a new two-year budget. While the Moldova-born Liberman lives in a West Bank settlement and is famous for bellicose statements that including baiting Arab lawmakers as traitors, he has in the past supported peace negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution.

The offer to Liberman brought an abrupt end to negotiations Netanyahu was also conducting with opposition leader Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Labor Party, to broaden the coalition. Herzog said at a broadcast press conference that having Liberman as defense minister would offend Israel’s allies and the Palestinians, creating a policy that “will verge on insanity.”

Giving the defense post to Liberman would require shifting the current defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon to another position, possibly foreign minister.

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