(JNS.org) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced today that they are merging their respective parties—Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, ahead of the January general elections.
“We are [facing] difficult challenges and it is time to unite [our] powers for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “One ticket will strengthen the government, it will strengthen the prime minister, and it will strengthen the state.”
The formation of the new “mega-party” with Lieberman may raise concerns over the direction of Netanyahu’s leadership, especially on negotiations with the Palestinians, of which Lieberman has been critical. However, Netanyahu’s advisors quickly dismissed those reports.
“Netanyahu hopes that in his third term this will be possible,” the advisor said. “He is ready for a discussion of all the core issues with the Palestinians and is ready to engage with Abbas.”
Israel’s Opposition Leader Shaul Mofaz, who temporarily joined Netanyahu in a coalition last spring, was highly critical of the move and suggested that Israel’s left and centrist parties join together.
“This is a wake-up call for the entire center to unite and put ego aside,” Mofaz said.
A poll conducted by a Lieberman campaign advisor suggests that the new party could gain 51 seats in the new election; currently both parties hold a combined 42 seats.