Netanyahu: Lieberman would divide J'lem

But Likud says there will be no 'bloody battle' with Israel Beiteinu.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, ETGAR LEFKOVITS
January 28, 2009 16:53
2 minute read.
Netanyahu: Lieberman would divide J'lem

netanyahu speaks 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who has previously been careful to leave attacks on his political rivals to others in his party, targeted a political ally on Wednesday when he accused Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman of being willing to divide Jerusalem. Netanyahu won the 1996 election due in part to his party's charge that his competition, then-Labor chairman Shimon Peres, would divide the capital. Employing the allegation against Lieberman was seen as an especially harsh blow, especially at the Jerusalem Conference, which is attended by top right-wing activists. "We [in the Likud] proved in the past that we are completely loyal to a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty," Netanyahu said. "We will continue this policy, despite the pattern of those who have become willing to divide Jerusalem. Those who say that are not just our political adversaries, but also those who are ostensibly our political partners, who give demographic justifications." Netanyahu issued the attack on Lieberman's plan for exchanges of territories and populations in east Jerusalem after Lieberman slammed him from the right at the conference the previous day. The mutual recriminations came despite a gentleman's agreement at the start of the campaign that they would not attack each other. Sources close to Netanyahu said on Wednesday that despite the exchanges, the Likud's strategy would not change and there would be no more attacks on Lieberman. "It wasn't really an attack but just a little hint," a Netanyahu associate said. "He got back at Lieberman for the night before. But if he attacks us for real, we will attack him back for real. The swords would be unsheathed and it would be a very bloody battle. But no one wants that to happen, because they both know about each other's dirty laundry." Netanyahu has been plagued in recent days by problems from his expected coalition partners. Shas damaged him on Tuesday when chairman Eli Yishai endorsed him too warmly in a move intended to take voters away from Likud. Shas's bear hug served as fodder for Kadima leaders to attack Netanyahu. National Union leader Ya'acov Katz gave Kadima additional ammunition on Wednesday when, speaking near television cameras, he urged Netanyahu to form a right-wing "orange coalition," a reference to the color of the former Gaza Coast Regional Council that became a symbol of the opposition to 2005's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu responded that he would form a wide coalition. Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, who was with Netanyahu, said that he and Katz were merely joking and that the matter had been blown out of proportion by Kadima. A Kadima official warned that Likud would form a "black and orange coalition," with people who refuse to serve in the IDF and extortionists, referring to the National Union and Shas. Meanwhile, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni warned, "It's either Bibi [Netanyahu] and Shas - or me" in an address at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Today there is no such thing as separate ballots: Likud and Shas are one," she said. Livni also attacked Netanyahu and other politicians on the Right for warning against dividing the capital. "I have had enough with the election-eve games over Jerusalem," Livni said in a lecture at the Jerusalem Conference. "This is the way to take Jerusalem out of the consensus instead of putting it at the heart of the consensus and fighting over it in negotiations."

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