* Netanyahu's coalition government remains intact
* Lieberman says his differences with Netanyahu have widened
JERUSALEM, July 7 Israeli Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman announced on Monday his party was ending its
merger with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, saying
differences over how to confront the Palestinian Hamas group had
contributed to the break.
Lieberman said his Yisrael Beitenu party, which favours a
harder line toward the Gaza-based Islamist group now locked in
daily cross-border fighting with Israel, would remain in
Netanyahu's coalition despite the breakup with Likud.
"Differences between the prime minister and me have lately
become substantial and fundamental," Lieberman said at a news
Highlighting his rift with Netanyahu could be an attempt by
Lieberman to position himself further to the right of the
conservative leader and win back voters who had drifted to the
ultranationalist Jewish Home party of Naftali Bennett.
Known for his blunt style and scorching criticism of
now-collapsed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Lieberman has
recently called for a wide offensive against the Palestinian
Hamas group in the Gaza Strip.
The frontier has flared in recent weeks, with militants
launching rocket attacks and Israel carrying out air strikes.
"A situation in which a terrorist group has hundreds of
rockets which it can decide any moment to use is intolerable,"
Lieberman said. "There have been suggestions that we wait ...
but I don't know what we're waiting for."
Netanyahu has cautioned against rash military moves, and
political sources said he and Lieberman had a vocal spat at a
cabinet meeting on Sunday on confronting Hamas.
At the news conference, Lieberman acknowledged there had
been a "heated debate" but gave no details.
Yisrael Beitenu and Likud fielded a joint list of
parliamentary candidates in the 2013 general election in a bid
to secure a dominant conservative bloc but won fewer votes than
"The truth is this alliance did not work in the election or
after it," Lieberman told a news comference, adding that he
would remain a "loyal coalition partner".
Netanyahu leads a fractious coalition that includes
ultranationalist and centrist parties that differ widely over
Israeli settlement on land Palestinians seek for a state, civil
liberties and religious issues.
(Writing by Maayan Lubell, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Ralph