(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Likud is no longer interested in running for the next Knesset on a joint list with Israel Beiteinu, following statements by the latter party's chairman, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in favor of dividing Jerusalem, senior Likud sources said Tuesday.
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu had discussed with Lieberman the possibility of running together in private meetings between the two over the past several months.
Netanyahu even said publicly that he was interested in forming a joint list with Israel Beiteinu, as he did with the Gesher and Tzomet parties before he was elected prime minister in 1996.
But Lieberman's statements about the need to give up Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in territorial and population exchanges convinced top Likud officials that the differences between the parties were irreconcilable.
"For us to run together in the future, he would have to vow to oppose dividing Jerusalem, and that's apparently not going to happen," a senior Likud source said. "He crossed a line that cannot be crossed and we are shocked by the way he has zigzagged between Right and Left."
The source said he was "much less bothered" by the diplomatic plan released Sunday by National Union chairman Benny Elon and that he did not rule out running with Elon's party. He said Elon's plan had elements of the Likud's traditional policies, including strategic cooperation with Jordan and an economic solution to the refugee issue.
"Lieberman's views are mistaken and dangerous," Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar said. "There are Arab neighborhoods in Lod, Ramle, Acre and Jaffa. Giving up Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem would transform the city from Israel's capital to the terror capital of the Middle East."
An official close to Lieberman said Netanyahu and the Likud were still doing everything possible to woo Israel Beiteinu. He said Lieberman met regularly with Netanyahu and they talked openly about every issue.
Netanyahu challenged Israel Beiteinu MKs in his speech to the Knesset on Monday, asking them what they were doing in the government.
Lieberman said in a press conference that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had done nothing Israel Beiteinu opposed.
Lieberman was heckled by settler leaders on a visit to illegal settlement outposts in Samaria on Tuesday that was planned well ahead of his recent statements about Jerusalem.
He visited Bruchim, which is featured in Talia Sasson's report on illegal outposts, and Eli and Rehelim, two legal settlements with neighborhoods built illegally.
When a settler in Rehelim heckled Lieberman, he asked him when he last visited the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem.
Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip chairman Danny Dayan responded by asking Lieberman if he knew the distance between Shuafat and nearby Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
Lieberman said that "anyone with an IQ above zero" was aware that Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem were only added to the city for political reasons and that therefore there was no reason to keep them.
He said the Israeli Arab problem was worse than the Palestinian problem and that it must be addressed.
While Lieberman was in Bruchim, he received a telephone call from Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who chairs the ministerial committee on illegal outposts.
Ramon agreed to Lieberman's request to hold the panel's next meeting at Bruchim so its members would see an outpost before it made its recommendations.