Netanyahu and Lieberman announce joint list for their parties and trigger a political earthquake that could solidify the right's dominance and diminish strength of ultra-Orthodox parties
PM: Now is the time to project strength in the face of threats.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took the political world by surprise on Thursday when they announced their parties, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, would run on a joint list in the upcoming elections on Jan. 22.The move comes as a political earthquake, which some call the Right's Big Bang, that could reshape the race. Analysts believe the joint run is designed to cement the right's hold on the premiership and will likely make it easier for Netanyahu to forge a 61-member coalition. If polls are accurate, the joint list could potentially increase the parties' Knesset representation. Currently Likud has 27 seats and Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu has 15. Lieberman's Knesset candidates will be afforded slots on the Likud list in a way that reflects the party's current size.
Netanyahu will still head the Likud list, but Lieberman would be guaranteed the number two slot. He would also become the most senior minister in Netanyahu's government if the latter is elected to a third term in January. The agreement does not, however, make Lieberman the first in the line of succession in the event the prime minister is incapacitated. Lieberman has already indicated he wants to continue serving as foreign minister.
..."By joining forces we will have the necessary strength to defend Israel from the national security threats it faces overseas and the power to introduce economic and social reforms at home," Netanyahu said.
...Netanyahu went on to list the challenges the new government was likely to face: "Now is the time to project strength vis-a-vis our enemies, and show unity at home."
"I prefer a strong coalition that relies on one big, united party that is based on true partnership," the prime minister said.
..."In light of the challenges we face, we need national responsibility," the foreign minister said. "It is time to do away with the leftovers of the trendy, flash-in-the-pan parties that become obsolete after a single Knesset term."
Likud and Yisrael Beytenu both categorically denied a Channel 2 report on Thursday that Netanyahu and Lieberman both plan to serve as the prime minister on a rotating basis, where Netanyahu would hand over power to Lieberman a few years into his third term in office.
"Channel two did not ask us to comment on this, but they went ahead with this false claim," a Likud official said on Thursday. "This claim is baseless." Yisrael Beytenu issued a similar statement as well.
...Running on a joint ticket could greatly diminish the strength of the ultra-Orthodox parties and would likely make it impossible for a similar left-wing alliance to unseat Netanyahu by winning more Knesset seats. Likud officials believe the merger may ultimately serve as a springboard for Lieberman if he chooses to run for the Likud leadership and become the head of the right-wing bloc.
Under the agreement, Lieberman's party would receive slots 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 20 on the Likud list as well as additional slots further down. Despite having entertained the notion of canceling the Likud primaries in favor of an organizing committee that would handpick candidates, the party will go ahead with the internal mechanism as planned...
...and from JPost, 27 Oct 2012:
... Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israeli our Home) ... have worked closely, separated, and again came together since Lieberman's first serious political office as Director-General of Likud when Netanyahu was party leader 1993-96, and then Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office during Netanyahu's first term 1996-97.
Initial responses to the party union from centrist and leftist politicians branded it extremist. Some Likud Members of Knesset also expressed their opposition. They accused their party head of moving too far to the right, perhaps out of concern that bringing politicians from Israel our Home into Likud would reduce their own chances of getting a high enough place on the new party's list to assure their return to the next Knesset.
... Lieberman himself has moderated his pronouncements as Foreign Minister. Some Likud MKs accuse him of not being sufficiently clear in support of settlements. Labor Party leader Shelli Yehimovitch, when pressed by an interviewer to say that she would never coalesce with Likud our Home, avoided ruling out her participation in a post-election coalition with the new party. Individuals affiliated with Israel our Home in the current government, notably Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich, have both acted as responsible professionals, reflecting their backgrounds in the Foreign Ministry and the Police. They would fit with any left-of-center to right-of-center Israeli government.
Speculation is that the Netanyahu-Lieberman union will push three or four claimants of leading the Israeli center (Livni, Lapid, Mofaz, Olmert) to form some kind of unity. Until now, however, none of these self-appointed Messiahs have been able to accept second place on anyone else's party list.
The moderation of the Israeli government (including Netanyahu and Lieberman in key positions since 2009) appears in ...Israel's actions vis a vis Gaza .... Not only have Israel's responses to periodic episodes of rockets and other attacks been measured and directed against individuals involved in the violence, but the moderation is apparent in what has not been discussed. Politicians, military personnel, and the media have avoided talking about some potentially juicy targets, including high-rise, upscale apartment blocks, that could--in an explicit--tit for tat--be turned to dust along with their occupants in response to rockets aimed at Sderot, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva, and other Israeli cities and towns.
Gaza has miserable slums, but also some spiffy developments seldom portrayed by those concerned to emphasize Gazans' suffering. Pictures are available here, here, and here.
Most rockets from Gaza land in empty fields, and most of those aimed at cities are brought down by Israeli anti-missile missiles. However, enough get through to civilian areas to cause deaths, injuries, property damage, and a great deal of anxiety. Israeli governments, including that led by Netanyahu and Lieberman, absorb the considerable domestic criticism about their inability to stop the violence coming from Gaza rather than ordering artillery and air strikes that in a matter of minutes could demonstrate to Gaza the cost of targeting Israeli civilians.
Those who know what U.S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman did to the Confederacy, what Harry Truman did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the British did to Dresden may be asking why Israel does not do it to Gaza. Or maybe to Tehran.
The Israeli reality is that such options are not in the discussion....