Liberman: Reduce factions, religion's role in gov't

Discussing Yisrael Beytenu-Likud merger, FM says deal agreed on 2 months ago; early poll shows 9-seat loss for united party.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 370 (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 370
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman on Friday described the future of Israeli politics and public life he hopes to help create just hours after he and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) announced a merger of their two parties.
The consolidation of the two parties, he explained, is a move toward changing the system of government in Israel and making it more stable by reducing the number of parties in the Knesset.
Admitting that Israel's political geography will never resemble the two-party dominated political system of the United States, Liberman said Israel must move toward a future in which there are only four or five parties in the Knesset.
He said he would like to get rid of "slivers of parties that make demands" on larger factions.
Addressing questions about the makeup of the still-fresh political rearrangement, Liberman clarified that the new party would be composed of "two factions on one list," describing it as a natural union.
"It is important that we build a wide, national camp," which traditionally, has led Israel for many years, Liberman said.
Click for full JPost coverageClick for full JPost coverage
Liberman also addressed the influence of religion on public life in Israel, saying it is one of his priorities to separate the two. He clarified however, that he is not advocating the separation of Judaism and the State of Israel, as it is a Jewish state.
The current role of Judaism in the state, he said, "is a desecration of God's name, not religion."
Driving home his point, the Yisrael Beytenu leader recited what he described as a Russian saying: "The closer you get to church, the further you get from God."
One of his priorities, he described, is to mandate military and national service for all Israeli citizens, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, admitting there are differences between himself and the prime minister on the issue.
Yisrael Beytenu, he recalled, was the only faction in the previous Knesset, all of whose members voted for full service for all Israelis.
Noting those differences, the foreign minister said he and those coming from Yisrael Beytenu will clearly have to make compromises in the new political arrangement. He also clarified that a prime ministerial rotation was never discussed.
Discussions on bringing the two parties together, he explained for the first time, began a year ago and was agreed upon two months ago. The final details were worked out just days before the announcement.
Early poll shows a loss for Likud-Yisrael Beytenu
An early Internet-based flash poll conducted by Panels Politics Thursday night predicted the newly combined party would win only 33 mandates in the upcoming elections, a loss of nine seats from the two parties' current positions in the Knesset.
In the current Knesset, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu hold a combined 42 seats.
The timing and nature of the poll is significant in measuring early attitudes toward the political maneuver.
According to the flash poll, the results of which are the first to be released since the party merger was announced, Center-Left parties Labor and Yesh Atid would pose an electoral threat to the new mega-party with a combined 45 mandates.
The poll predicted 27 mandates going to the Shelly Yacimovich-led Labor Party, and 18 seats for Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party. Both Shaul Mofaz's Kadima and Ehud Barak's Independence parties disappeared off the political map in the flash poll.
The Internet-based flash poll, conducted immediately following the Netanyahu-Liberman announcement Thursday night, polled 305 respondents representing Jewish Israelis over the age of 18.
According to the initial preliminary poll, Left and Right blocs in the Knesset would be evenly split with 60 votes each. The Arab and Communist parties, who currently hold 15 seats, were included in the Center-Left bloc.