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Friday, October 26, 2012

Likud and Liberman running together - not everyone is pleased

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced on Thursday evening that their two parties - the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu respectively, will run together as one list in the upcoming Knesset elections.
In a brief press conference that lasted exactly 6.5 minutes, Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Liberman refused to answer any questions regarding the rotation of the list, but a Likud source said Netanyahu will be first, followed by Liberman, then two Likud MKs, followed by a member of Yisrael Beytenu.
Both parties denied that the foreign minister and prime minister would have a rotation for the top spot, saying that Netanyahu will lead Israel for ten more years.
"We are before difficult challenges and it is time to unite powers for the state of Israel," Netanyahu said. "One ticket will strengthen the government, it will strengthen the prime minister, and it will strengthen the state."
"We are asking the public for a mandate to deal with the security threats, at the top of which is stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and fighting terror. We are asking for a mandate from the public to continue the changes in the economy, in education, and in the need to lower the cost of living."
Netanyahu thanked Liberman for putting his "personal considerations" aside for the good of the country.


A poll conducted by Liberman's campaign adviser Arthur Finkelstein said the joint party would get 51 seats in the 19th Knesset. Currently, the two parties combined have 42 MKs.


Netanyahu's merger with Liberman's party, and the likelihood that Liberman will now be the number two man in the new party, will undoubtedly raise eyebrows in capitals around the world as to whether Netanyahu is still committed to the diplomatic process with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.  In the past Netanyahu's advisors distanced Netanyahu from Liberman's stand on these issues, saying that the foreign ministry was only speaking for himself and his party.
For the last number of months Liberman has waged a campaign against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that there will be no agreement with the Palestinians while he is still in power and that the PA president is engaging in diplomatic terrorism.
Immediately after Thursday's dramatic announcement, an advisor to Netanyahu said that Netanyahu continues to call for a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority with out pre-conditions.
Read the whole thing.

It's not just rival parties that are denouncing this move. Several MK's in the Likud are also opposed.
Speaking of the move, the Likud's Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said in an interview with Channel 2 earlier in the day that he was "aware of contacts on this issue. This isn't new," adding: "We must congratulate the agreement."

"This isn't a joint party, but a joint list," Erdan said, confirming that Netanyahu informed him of the move earlier in the day.

Likud MK Michael Eitan criticized the move, and called on Likud committee members to reject the unification. “This agreement, if it goes into effect, it will destroy the Likud movement, and threaten Israeli democracy,” said Eitan.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who also hails from the Likud, also congratulated the move, saying that it will "more clearly define the contest between left and right in the elections campaign."

Another senior Likud official, speaking on condition of anonymity, criticized the plan, saying: "What does Netanyahu think? That he's [Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi] Ovadia Yosef? That he can dictate to us who we run with?"

"We're repulsed by this partnership with Lieberman. I don't want to run with a person like Lieberman, with the kind of values he stands for," the Likud official added, saying that he thought "the joint list won't get together what Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu would have received if they went for elections as separate parties."
The idea that Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu joining the Likud will put an end to 'negotiations' (as if there have been any in the last three and a half years) is a load of rubbish. As you might recall, Lieberman's party favors a 'Palestinian state,' albeit with a land swap that would have Israel absorbing part of Judea and Samaria, and the 'Palestinians' receiving the Triangle (an area within the 'green line' near Samaria that has an almost-entirely Arab population) in exchange. 

And while I believe that Netanyahu made this move out of concern over the rumblings of Kadima and Labor running together with Olmert or Livni leading the ticket, I also believe that this move was intended to once again prevent Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) from attaining realistic slots on the Likud's slate. Ironically, Feiglin congratulated Netanyahu on the move soon after it was announced.

An additional 'benefit' from Netanyahu's standpoint may be pushing young whippersnappers like Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely further down the list. So no, I'm not happy about this. But I don't believe that this type of partnership between Netanyahu and his former bureau chief (during his first term in office) is likely to last long term.

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