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(photo credit: AP [file])
The Likud central committee will convene Thursday to approve a request by party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to merge with MK Effi Eitam's party, Ahi.
The meeting was called urgently, due to Sunday's deadline for parties to submit their list of candidates to the Central Elections Committee.
Under the deal, a representative of Ahi - not Eitam - would be added to the Likud list in an unrealistic slot. The Likud will receive Ahi's NIS 12 million taxpayer-funded election budget, which will allow the party to increase its maximum campaign spending from NIS 28 million to NIS 40 million.
Likud officials said the Ahi representative would not be placed higher on the list than Netanyahu's nemesis, Moshe Feiglin, who is in the 36th slot. They said that Netanyahu could not get away with challenging Feiglin again.
Critics of the Likud slammed the deal, noting that Netanyahu had tried to prevent Eitam from joining the party before. He allowed every candidate who sought to run for a Likud Knesset seat - except Eitam - to run by waiving a three-year party membership requirement.
Kadima MKs Yoel Hasson and Shlomo Molla appealed to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and Central Elections Committee Chairman Eliezer Rivlin, asking them to disqualify the merger.
"It is interesting that suddenly Netanyahu and Eitam became closer ideologically when Eitam showed him the money," Hasson said.
A Kadima spokesman added that "Bibi is no longer trying to hide the extremists in the Likud. He is trying to buy them with money."
The chairman of the Labor election campaign, MK Ophir Paz-Pines, released a statement accusing Netanyahu of giving in to the pressures of his party's empty coffers and "selling the Likud to the extreme Right for cash."
He warned that Netanyahu would do the same if he were elected prime minister.
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