Analysis: Uniting the Right

For the gamble to succeed, the potential for political gain must exceed the risks.

October 26, 2012 00:48
1 minute read.
Netanyahu and Liberman announce parties uniting

Liberman and Netanyahu 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman have held secret talks on merging their parties on and off again for several years.

The closest they came to reaching a deal was in the aftermath of the 2006 Second Lebanon War when the Likud had only 12 Knesset seats and Netanyahu thought uniting the Right could help bring down then-prime minister Ehud Olmert of Kadima.

A source involved in the talks back then said the reason they broke down was that Netanyahu and Liberman could not overcome their personal disputes. Liberman instead briefly took his party into Olmert’s government.

Now they have decided to pull the trigger on the merger, which is again aimed at fighting Olmert and a potential merger of forces on the Center-Left. For the gamble to succeed, the potential for political gain must exceed the risks.

The new “Likud Beytenu” would have to be greater than the sum of its parts to be worthwhile.

The main risk is alienating voters from both parties.

There are moderates who vote Likud who will be deterred by Liberman, and plenty of people vote for Yisrael Beytenu because they consider Netanyahu too soft or don’t like him personally.

The main benefit is the potential to create a megaparty that can overcome any challenge. If Israel is headed to inevitable electoral reform, better to begin efforts toward something closer to a twoparty system now rather than later.

But there is also a deeper, sociological, benefit to the merger. The Likud’s traditional poor Sephardi voters, who fought bitterly over jobs with Russian immigrants upon their arrival, are now uniting with them.

The merger indicates that the project of integrating the immigrants into Israeli society begun by former Likud prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, whose son Yair is in Yisrael Beytenu, has succeeded.

Yisrael Beytenu ran two elections ago under the slogan Da Liberman. The success of the merger will indicate whether the time for Da Bibi has come.

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