(photo credit:Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MKs across the political spectrum on Thursday reacted to the joint decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to unite their respective Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties.
Likud minister Gideon Sa'ar praised the move, saying it "has the potential to significantly strengthen the ability to govern and to deal with the great challenges Israel is facing."
Sa'ar added that the move would also "sharpen the debate between Right and Left in the upcoming elections."
Knesset Speaker Reuvin Rivlin (Likud) similarly said that the prospective merger would "contribute to the long-term stability of the government...[by] reduc[ing] the political pressures caused by the growing number of sectoral parties over the last few years."
However, members of both the political Right and Left denounced the move.
National Union MKs Arye Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari said that the unification of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu should serve to show the right-wing voting public that the two parties had no "ideological backbone."
"The fake right-wing is exposing its true face; Netanyahu and Liberman are all talk," Ben-ari stated.
Eldad said that the merger represented a combination of parties who had been all slogan and not carried out their promises to right-wing voters.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich slammed the merger, saying "the union between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has created a new extremist and racist party."
Yacimovich called on centrist political forces to join Labor and not allow Netanyahu and Liberman to govern.
Labor MK Issac Herzog expressed similar sentiment, saying that the resulting "Likud Beytenu" party would be a "north pole" of extremists in Israeli politics.
Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz also denounced the political union, saying "the real Likud and the nationalist demon came out of the closet."
Mofaz added that a Netanyahu-Liberman government would "perpetuate Israel's international ostracism and political paralysis."
Also from Kadima, MK Yochanan Plesner said the merger should be countered through the formation of a centrist political bloc to challenge the "right-extreme-right bloc of Liberman and Netanyahu."
"I call on the centrist parties to put their egos aside and act to come together," Plesner stated.
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid said Israel's emerging political picture already made clear that his party is the only one that can represent Israelis in the political center.
Lapid said that "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has moved to the extreme right, whereas Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich broke far to the Left."
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