As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form the next government comes to an end Tuesday night, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid seems the most likely candidate to be given the next shot at building a coalition. Whether Lapid or someone else ultimately succeeds at forming a government, there is a growing consensus that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman is the most likely choice to be Israel’s next Finance Minister.

“Liberman had actively campaigned to be the next Finance Minister in the last election cycle,” said Ashley Perry, who had previously worked as Liberman’s advisor when he served as the Foreign Affairs Minister between 2009 and 2015. “He believes very much in changing the national agenda of where our money goes.”

Perry characterized Liberman as a strategic thinker with a keen ability to spot long-term trends, take advice from experts, and develop long-term plans to achieve goals.

“Liberman is one of the few long-term strategists in Israel who identifies problems and challenges years before anyone else does,” Perry said. “After years of having someone in the position who just thinks day to day, putting out fires, he is a person who is thinking about five or ten years down the road.”

“I also saw during his time in the Foreign and Defense Ministry that he is someone who turns to experts for advice instead of thinking he knows how to do everything by himself. He regularly meets with the top experts on a field, gets a lot of different opinions, and then sets out a strategic plan. He comes into the ministry and really studies it, putting his head down for a few months to really get to know what is needed.”

Liberman is a believer in free markets, with a strong social safety net for those who contribute to the system. His very public antagonism toward the ultra-Orthodox communities relates closely to his economic views.

“He’s a right of center market capitalist, slightly to the left of Netanyahu,” Perry said. “He believes very strongly that the system should work equally for everyone, with no community getting privileged or prioritized over another community. Whoever contributes the most to the system should benefit the most, and whoever contributes the least benefits the least. People who need welfare should receive it, but people who don’t deserve it should be incentivized to contribute. For one community to get prioritized over other communities is an unsustainable model.”

Liberman plans to invest heavily in infrastructure projects, decrease bureaucracy and regulation, and reach a long-term arrangement to reign in the power of the Histadrut labor union. He believes that pension plans should be strengthened, and intends not to raise taxes. He is staunchly dedicated to drafting Haredim into the army and canceling the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on kashrut.

The job of Finance Minister as Israel seeks to recover from the coronavirus crisis is fraught with perils. Unemployment remains high, as does the national debt, and the public is hungry for change. Before anything else, a multi-year budget needs to be passed quickly to reset the national priorities. 

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