Defense Minister Ehud Barak wants his Independence Party to carry on under the leadership of Likud Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, sources close to Barak said Tuesday night.
The fate of the Independence Party has been up in the air since Barak announced his retirement from politics last week. The four remaining Independence MKs have examined several options since then.
Meridor did not come close to winning a realistic slot on the Likud candidates list in the party’s primary last week. But Barak and Independence MK Einat Wilf presented Meridor with a poll indicating that he could win 10-11 seats if he headed their party.
“Ehud is mobilized, calling and pressuring Meridor,” Wilf said. “Right now he seems intent on retiring completely, but we think with a sufficient amount of pressure, he might cave in.”
Channel 1 reported that Meridor is leaning against the offer but had not made a final decision. Wilf would not reveal her party’s backup plan if Meridor, who is currently in New York, turns her down.
“This option makes a lot of sense for us,” Wilf said. “Meridor is in line with our philosophy and our style. People want to make sure that there will be a moderate, liberal, yet clearly Zionist representation that will work to maintain the rule of law. We can clearly be an address for those people. If this doesn’t work, we will have to see what happens.”
Meridor has also received offers to join the Tzipi Livni Party. Journalist Ben-Dror Yemini became the latest well-known figure to turn down Livni Tuesday, saying he believes he would have more influence and more flexibility to advance his views as a journalist than as an MK bound by faction discipline. Former state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, former Teva chief executive officer Shlomo Yanai, and Manuel Trajtenberg, who headed the committee appointed to respond to the socioeconomic protesters of the summer of 2011, have also turned down recent offers to join Livni.
Following the departure of seven MKs to Livni’s party, Kadima’s selection committee met for the first time Tuesday to consider how to rank its candidates.
Channel 2 reported that the MKs at the top of the list will be Yohanan Plesner, Dalia Itzik and Yisrael Hasson and that MK Ronnie Bar-On was seriously considering quitting politics.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert returned from the United States late Tuesday. A delegation met with him following his arrival to try to pressure him to run at the helm of Kadima, but senior officials in the party said they doubted he would do so.