Likud, Yisrael Beytenu staying together - for now

Netanyahu asks Liberman to maintain parties' bond due to increasing challenges Israel is facing with Iran, Palestinians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and former FM Liberman 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and former FM Liberman 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
The central committee of Yisrael Beytenu voted on Sunday to temporarily maintain its bond with Likud at a meeting in Jerusalem.
Avigdor Liberman, the party’s head, met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Saturday night to discuss the future of their parties. Netanyahu asked Liberman to maintain the bond, because of the challenges Israel is facing on the issues of Iran and the Palestinians.
“We established this union because of the challenges facing the country,” Netanyahu reportedly told Liberman. “Since then, the challenges have only increased, and with them, the need for the bond.”
Liberman said although there was a clear majority among his party activists against maintaining the bond with Likud, he personally would not mind in the future forming a wider bloc that would include Likud and Bayit Yehudi.
Meanwhile, the central committee empowered the party’s smaller secretariat to make the decision when the time is right.
The Likud is expected to make its own decision in the next three weeks on the bond, which resulted in the two parties falling in the January election from 42 seats separately to 31 combined.
Netanyahu had not made his opinion on the bond known before Sunday.
Yisrael Beytenu’s deputy mayor of the Shomron Regional Council, Hanan Ziv, mocked Likud ministers for opposing maintaining the bond.
Using two slogans popularized by Netanyahu, Ziv said “they are a-f-r-a-i-d” and “if they give they will get, and if they don’t give, they won’t get.”
For Liberman, Sunday’s party meeting was his first since he was acquitted of corruption charges on November 6. He thanked the large crowd at the event for their support during the lengthy investigation against him, and said the backing he received from his activists made him realize his party was a family.
Liberman defended his party’s efforts in last month’s municipal elections, saying he was proud of Moshe Lion, his party’s candidate for Jerusalem mayor, even though he did not win. Noting deals Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat made with haredi factions, he accused Barkat of dirty politics.
“We did well against an incumbent mayor who spent more money than any mayor in an election in history,” Liberman said.
“We proved we were not part of a dirty political deal. The opposite: The other side bought power with money.”