Israel Beiteinu cheerful but not euphoric

15 MKs look to be king-makers, 'weigh all options'.

By ABE SELIG
February 11, 2009 23:48
3 minute read.
Israel Beiteinu cheerful but not euphoric

Lieberman calm down 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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As the country's political mood went from one of tense anticipation to a flurry of speculation over coalition prospects on Wednesday, members of Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party - now the uncontested king-maker - seemed content to bask in the glow of their achievements, rather than to deliberate, at least too seriously, prospective partners for a governing coalition. Many of the party's members described a mood of accomplishment and satisfaction within their camp, despite expectations - based on polls leading up to the election - that they would win at least 18 seats instead of the 15 they garnered after the votes were counted. "The mood [in Israel Beiteinu] is terrific," MK David Rotem, No. 8 on the party's candidates list and an Efrat resident, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "When you go up from 11 seats to 15 seats, the mood is bound to be terrific." Rotem isn't the only one in a good mood. "We all feel great," said Israel Beiteinu director-general and No. 10 on the candidates list, Faina Kirschenbaum, from Nili in Samaria. "We've become the third largest party in the country. We grew in mandates, what's not great about that?" Still, Kirschenbaum added that now that the celebrations were over, she and her colleagues were prepared to get down to business. "We're not euphoric," she said. "Euphoria implies losing control or not knowing what's going on. We know what's going on, and now we're ready to move forward and start keeping the promises we made to our constituents." In that vein, Kirschenbaum said her fellow party members were somewhat preoccupied with the coalition talks centered around their movement. "We're weighing all of the options," she said. "But the main thing to remember is that no matter who we serve in a coalition with, it will be a party that understands and agrees with our basic principles - like fighting terrorism, citizen loyalty and government reform. Those are our foundational lines and we aren't going to cross them." However, the newly elected Knesset member refrained from saying if her party was leaning toward a right-wing coalition, or something slightly to the left, hinting nonetheless that "Kadima isn't necessarily left, but we're still in the [negotiations] process." Israel Beiteinu No. 14 MK Lia Shemtov, from Upper Nazareth, played up another side of the coalition shuffle, telling the Post her party would be willing to overlook the attacks mounted against them by Shas during the campaign, if it agreed to Israel Beiteinu's principles. "It's a little too soon to forget what [Shas] did during the campaign, Shemtov said. "It was unexpected and harsh, but we also made promises to our voters, and if Shas can agree to [honor] those promises, we would be open to a coalition that included them." Shemtov admitted that there was a new feeling of power within the ranks of her party the day after results were tallied, but said she and her colleagues main interest right now was delivering on the campaign promises that made Israel Beiteinu the third largest party. "We know that we hold the key to the next coalition," she said. "But we also don't owe any of the parties anything. We have principles and red lines, and we plan on upholding all of them." Shemtov will be serving her second term in the Knesset, and said that this time around, she was excited to be in a faction with so many women. "We have five women coming into the Knesset on our list," she said. "And we're proud of that. It's so good to see women taking part in the process and making a difference." "But the main celebration for Israel Beiteinu today is that we grew in strength and that we grew in mandates," Shemtov continued. "And any coalition will have to acknowledge that we're here."

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