Likud's Eitan calls for secret ballot vote on merger

Minister says Yisrael Beytenu-Likud merger "is a mistake that will hurt the Likud," calls for union to be voted on "democratically."

Michael Eitan  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Michael Eitan
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Likud Minister Michael Eitan on Friday expressed opposition to his party's merger with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu, and called on faction members to sign a petition for a secret ballot to vote democratically on the union during Monday's Likud convention.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Liberman announced that Likud and Yisrael Beytenu would be running on a joint party list in the January 22 national election for the 19th Knesset. The move is scheduled to be approved at the Likud convention.
Eitan, who voiced his opposition to the move immediately after it was announced on Thursday, wrote Friday on his Facebook page that "the goal is to convince those at the convention and Netanyahu that the union with Liberman is a mistake that will hurt the Likud and fail to bring the promised results."
The government services minister proposed that party members sign a petition for a secret ballot on the merger in order to "ensure that this decision is made in a democratic manner."
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In a statement released after the announcement of the merger on Thursday, Eitan called the union “the end of Likud and a threat to Israeli democracy.
“The liberal tradition of [former prime minister] Menachem Begin and [Likud ideological forbearer] Ze’ev Jabotinsky is over,” Eitan said. “This deal will bring extremism.”
Liberman said Friday that the the consolidation of the two parties 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.
He said he would like to get rid of "slivers of parties that make demands" on larger factions.
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.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.