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(photo credit: IDF [file])
Former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's campaign for Likud leadership received a boost on Thursday when former IDF Chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon agreed to support his candidacy, according to a Channel 2 report.
Ya'alon is prohibited from running for Knesset because the mandatory "cooling-off period" between the end of his army service and the beginning of a possible political career has not passed. But sources close to Netanyahu said that it is likely that if Netanyahu were elected prime minister, he would appoint Ya'alon as his defense minister.
News of Ya'alon's endorsement capped a successful week for Netanyahu in which MK Uzi Landau dropped out of the leadership race and joined his campaign team. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also announced his support for Netanyahu in the December 19 primary.
An Israel Radio poll broadcast on Thursday predicted that Netanyahu would win the race by a significant margin but he would not obtain 40 percent of the vote, which he would need to avoid a run-off race against Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. The poll also found that Netanyahu would bring the Likud five more mandates than his competitors.
Sources close to Mofaz said the leak of the ties between Netanyahu and Ya'alon to Channel 2 on Thursday was intended to harm Mofaz's campaign. Mofaz attacked Netanyahu on Thursday, warning that he would make the Likud into a small fringe party.
In comments submitted to The Jerusalem Post for its Likud leadership debate Mofaz stressed that unlike Netanyahu, his Likud would be "moderate Right and realistic" and would not harm the poor sectors.
Netanyahu continued his policy of not attacking the other candidates. He outlined his diplomatic vision, which is based on Palestinian reciprocity.
"In Judea and Samaria, we have national, historic and strategic interests and I don't see any reason why we should offer concessions in advance of negotiations," Netanyahu told the Post. "Such concessions will be of limited scale and will be offered only in exchange for genuine peace with a genuine peace partner, something that is not readily apparent on the horizon today."
The Likud's temporary leadership team, which was appointed on Wednesday to replace interim chairman Tzahi Hanegbi, distributed talking points to Likud MKs to use when attacking Kadima in interviews.
The MKs were told to differentiate the Likud from Kadima by saying that the Likud has a bright future ahead while Kadima will be a one-term wonder and that the Likud has democratic elections while Sharon will personally select his Knesset list.
The MKs will also criticize Sharon for bringing together a slate of "people with nothing in common," pointing out the differences between Tzahi Hanegbi on the Right and Shimon Peres on the Left, and the conflicting views of Shinui founder Uriel Reichman and former Shas and Am Ehad MK David Tal.
The Likud is starting an NIS 1 million public relations campaign this weekend and is planning a major rally for December 27 after its new chairman has been chosen.
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