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Likudniks want Bennett, not Livni in coalition
By GIL HOFFMAN, JEREMY SHARON AND TOVAH LAZAROFF
26/12/2012
Warning comes after Livni sent messengers twice to speak to Netanyahu's confidants about joining forces in the coalition.
 
Likud MKs and mayors warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday not to form a coalition with Center-Left parties at the expense of Bayit Yehudi and other traditional Likud allies on the Right.

The warnings came after former foreign minister Tzipi Livni twice sent messengers to speak to Netanyahu’s confidants about joining forces in the government he is expected to form following the January 22 election.

“If the Likud Beytenu does not fare as well as expected in the election, Netanyahu might be able to get away with saying he had no choice but to bring Center-Left parties into the coalition,” Likud MK Danny Danon said. “But if Likud gets 40 seats and he goes to [Labor leader] Shelly [Yacimovich] instead of Bayit Yehudi, the Likud rank and file will be angry. It would be seen as betrayal of our partner.”

Netanyahu met Wednesday with a group of Likud mayors and council heads from Judea and Samaria. They warned him that he had made a mistake by attacking Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who was a preferred coalition partner.

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl said that Netanyahu’s comments against Bennett were swaying people to vote for his party, instead of the Likud.

The Likud and Bayit HaYehudi are very close to each other, Netanyahu needs to embrace the party and not attack it, Perl said.

"They have the same voters and they have to move forward together," he added.

But the bulk of the meeting, which was called by Netanyahu, focused on ways to garner votes for Likud Beytenu among the residents of Judea and Samaria.

“Netanyahu emphasized that it was important for Likud Beytenu to be a strong party, because it would help him with the challenges he was facing,” said Efrat Council head Oded Revivi after the meeting. “He requested that we do our best to try and help him reach that goal.”

Revivi added voters should focus on Netanyahu’s action at the end of his term in granting permits for many new homes in the West Bank, including for Efrat, which had not received any new approvals for 12 years. Settler leaders promised Netanyahu to work on his behalf, but added that their efforts would be strengthened if he continued to adopt positive measures with respect to Judea and Samaria.

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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said in a speech in Ashdod to evacuees from Gush Katif that Netanyahu’s attacks on Bennett had boomeranged against the Likud. He told high school students in Beersheba on Wednesday that the next government would have to be wide, because the next Knesset would decide key issues like passing budget cuts, equalizing the burden of service and changing the electoral system.

“Without a strong and wide coalition built around a large ruling party, we could find ourselves going back to vote again in another eight to 10 months,” Rivlin said.

Livni told Army Radio that she was worried voters would stay home because of polls indicating a commanding lead for Likud Beytenu.

“It pains me that the public in Israel lost faith that a change is possible and some have resigned themselves to the election already being decided,” she said. “I am worried that the Center-Left won’t come to vote. Those people who do not vote should see themselves as personally responsible for what happens to them and their children.”

To drum up support for her list, Livni met Tuesday night with patrons at Tel Aviv bars.

Shas co-chairman Arye Deri said on Army Radio that his party wants Netanyahu to be the next prime minister and that Shas will join him in government, but claimed that only his party would fight with Netanyahu to protect the weaker sectors of society.

Tensions between Shas and Likud have risen in recent days over Netanyahu’s comments that he intends to wrest the Construction and Housing Ministry away from the party and give it over to a member of the Likud-Beytenu joint list in the next government.

But Deri reiterated Shas’s message that they would not condition entry into the government on receiving any particular ministry.

He did, however, attack the prime minister over budget cuts which he said were detrimental to the poor, and charged that Likud had abandoned its religiously traditional supporters, daring Netanyahu to publicly oppose civil unions – as an alternative to religious marriages – to prove him wrong.

The Shas triumvirate leadership of Deri, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias and Interior Minister Eli Yishai also issued a joint-statement on Wednesday morning, defending Shas’s record in control of the Housing Ministry, claiming that it has worked toward benefiting the poor without distinction between ethnic background and religious affiliation.

“The Netanyahu of 2013 is the Netanyahu of 2003, of cuts and [economic] decrees,” the Shas leadership stated.

“Since the unification with [Yisrael Betyenu leader Avigdor] Liberman, the Likud is no longer our home, Shas is our home. Only a strong Shas will be able to prevent Netanyahu harming the weak sectors of society and ensure that their voices are heard.”
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