The Likud and Yisrael Beytenu will run together for the 19th Knesset, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on
In a brief press conference at a Jerusalem hotel,
Netanyahu and Liberman refused to answer any questions regarding the order of
the candidates on the joint Knesset list, but a Likud source said Netanyahu
would be first, followed by Liberman, then two Likud MKs, followed by a member
of Yisrael Beytenu.
Both parties denied that the foreign minister and the
prime minister would have a rotation for the top spot, saying that Netanyahu
would lead Israel for 10 more years.
“We are ahead of 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 country.
“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 terrorism. 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,” the prime minister
Netanyahu thanked Liberman, who is also the chairman of Yisrael
Beytenu, for putting his “personal considerations” aside for the good of the
Liberman credited the stability of the coalition for allowing
the current government to last for four years.
“We are not like the
fashionable parties that are created for one term, we are a true party that will
allow the government to deal with challenges in the best way possible,” he
“This coalition was the most stable in recent years and maybe even
A poll conducted by Liberman’s campaign adviser, Arthur
Finkelstein, said the joint list 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 No. 2 man in
the joint list, will undoubtedly raise eyebrows in capitals around the world as
to whether Netanyahu is still committed to the diplomatic process with President
Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
In the past, Netanyahu’s
advisers distanced Netanyahu from Liberman’s stance on these issues, saying that
the foreign minister was only speaking for himself and his party.
past few months, Liberman has waged a campaign against Abbas, saying there will
be no agreement with the Palestinians while he is still in power and that the PA
president is engaging in “diplomatic terrorism.”
Thursday’s dramatic announcement, an adviser to Netanyahu said the prime
minister continues to call for a resumption of peace talks with the PA without
“Netanyahu hopes that in his third term this will be
possible,” the adviser said. “He is ready for a discussion of all the core
issues with the Palestinians, and is ready to engage with Abbas.”
adviser said that Liberman did not prevent Netanyahu from being willing to
engage with Abbas in the past – an offer Abbas did not accept – and would not
prevent him from doing so in the future.
The adviser said the merger
could actually lead to a less strident tone on the Palestinian issue in the
election campaign, since the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu would not be competing for the same voters, and therefore would not have to outdo themselves in their
Just as there were currently differences inside the Likud as to
the best approach to the diplomatic process – such as between MKs Danny Danon
and Tzipi Hotovely on one side, and Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor
and Government Services Minister Michael Eitan on the other – so too would there
be differences between Liberman and Netanyahu on these issues, the adviser
Meanwhile, Likud ministers expressed those differences of opinion
on the unity deal.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, a close ally of
Netanyahu, said the deal “will sharpen the argument between Right and Left, but
beyond that, it has the potential to significantly strengthen our ability to
govern and deal with great challenges ahead of Israel. We will be able to make
changes in the government system and in equality in the burden of national
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the large united list would
reduce pressures caused by sectorial parties.
Culture and Sport Minister
Limor Livnat insisted that the Likud would continue to keep its own values, and
not adopt those of Yisrael Beytenu, but the move would increase the government’s
Eitan called for the Likud central committee to reject the
union, calling it “the end of Likud and a threat to Israeli
“The liberal tradition of [former prime minister] Menachem
Begin and [Likud ideological forbearer] Ze’ev Jabotinsky is over,” Eitan said.
“This deal will bring extremism.”
Meanwhile, Labor chairwoman Shelly
Yacimovich and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz called for the center of the
political map to unite forces.
“What happened tonight shows the power in
Netanyahu could tell that he was going to lose his job,
and took a step inspired by political panic due to Labor’s strength,” Yacimovich
said. “This step turns the Likud into Liberman’s party. Tonight Likud
disappeared and instead there’s an extreme Liberman party.”
proclaimed, “This is a wake-up call for the entire Center to unite and put ego
aside. The Likud and Yisrael Beytenu formed an extremist party that has no
According to former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni, it is now clear
that this election is about “the future, image and values of the State of
Israel, and a choice between an extreme, isolated country or a sane, Zionist
“I was born in the Likud. I know what values it was supposed to
represent and abandoned,” she added. “The choice should not be between extremes,
but between the extreme and the Zionist Center, which believes in a Jewish,
democratic and balanced Israel.”
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid said
the Labor party has been shifting farther to the extreme Left, and the new deal
with Liberman pushes Likud to the extreme Right, ending the days of “the Likud
of Menachem Begin.”
Lapid also said it was a loss for the country’s
majority, the middle of the road Israelis.
Shas said the Netanyahu-
Liberman union made choices easier for voters.
“Now it is clear to all
that only one family is concerned about the weaker members of society and our
Jewish tradition,” a party spokesman said. “In the next election, whoever cares
about the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the prevention of economic
decrees against the weaker sector has only one address: A strong, united Shas,”
the party said.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.