"These are the people who went with me into the political desert and raised the Likud banner in tough times," party leader says.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that his political opponents will try to smear him during the campaign ahead of the February 10 general election, but vowed to refrain from political mudslinging.
Speaking to the Likud central committee at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Netanyahu reached out to his rivals. He said that if the Likud won the election, he would invite every Zionist party into a broad national unity government. But he stressed there was still a difficult campaign ahead.
"We won't be dragged into the bad old kind of politics," Netanyahu said. "They will try to find skeletons in our closets. But our campaign will be positive and will focus on the issues."
Netanyahu used the event to showcase "celebrities" who have joined the party, as well as former MKs who came back. Former ministers Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor were received warmly, and Begin's speech received resounding applause.
"In the past 15 years, Labor and Kadima governments made promises, resisted warnings and said they would take calculated risks," Begin told the crowd. "Then they admitted that they didn't know how to calculate the risks. That's what happened with Oslo and the disengagement. There will be no more experiments in Israel."
A Kadima spokesman responded that "Begin and Meridor are familiar with what comes out of Netanyahu's promises" and that the people of Israel want Livni and not the "tricks and political deals of the bad old kind of politics of Netanyahu and the Likud central committee."
Netanyahu reached out to the current roster of Likud MKs, who have become increasingly worried about their political futures with each public figure who has joined the crowded field in the December 8 primary.
He asked the MKs to stand up so they could receive the acclaim of the crowd.
"These are the people who went with me into the political desert and raised the Likud banner in tough times," Netanyahu said.
It was still unclear on Sunday whether former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon would join the party, despite reports in the Hebrew press that he had already made up his mind, which he vigorously denied.
Former MK Uzi Landau has decided not to run in the Likud, but left open the possibility that he would run for the party being formed to its right.
The central committee approved the Likud law committee's proposal to reserve slots on the party's list for immigrants, women, a non-Jew and a candidate under 35.
At the colorful event, the hundred announced candidates distributed business cards and flyers to central committee members. Following an infamous 2003 central committee meeting in which candidates distributed hot dogs, wine and Druse delicacies, the Knesset outlawed such party favors as bribery.
The only candidate who violated that law on Sunday night was former MK Leah Nass, whose volunteers distributed packages of hard candies with her picture on the cover.
var cont = `Stay Informed
As the war against Hamas unfolds, our unwavering newsroom remains committed to covering Israel's most profound crisis.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real-time news and in-depth analysis from our top reporters.