PM originally explored merger with Kadima, aide says

PM originally explored merger with Kadima, aide says

Netanyahu adviser hails Yisrael Beytenu deal as bringing Likud closer to center

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with tKadima party head Shaul Mofaz (photo credit:  Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with tKadima party head Shaul Mofaz (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly sought to ally his Likud faction with the centrist Kadima party, long before bruiting a joint list with Yisrael Beytenu, and even before the Shaul Mofaz-led Kadima joined a unity government last May, Maariv reported on Monday.

In an interview with the newspaper, Orit Galili-Zucker, the head of the prime minister’s political communications team, said that she was instructed by Netanyahu to begin exploring the possibility of Likud forming an alliance with another party more than a year ago.

“We saw in the polls that people prefer large parties to the smaller fragmented parties,” Galili-Zucker said, adding that voters did not like special interest parties’ ability to hold the ruling coalition hostage.

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman shocked the political system by announcing they would create a joint slate to run in January 2013 elections. But according to Galili Zucker, Liberman was not the only option Netanyahu considered.

When she first began exploring merger possibilities for the prime minister, the public “loved the idea” of a joint Likud-Kadima party, “even more than the alliance with Yisrael Beytenu,” Galili-Zucker told the paper. She added that Kadima, formed in 2005 by centrist elements from the Likud and Labor factions, should have been the natural partner of Netanyahu’s party.

Unfortunately, according to Galili-Zucker, Mofaz was “unable to deliver.” At the beginning, he talked about changing the system of governance, but once he was in the government, all he could talk about was drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF.

The political operative said the alliance with Yisrael Beytenu was working swimmingly, with Liberman showing willingness to compromise, unlike Mofaz, whom she described as a hostage to his party.

The move to create a joint slate was to be voted on by Likud on Monday, with the measure expected to pass despite early opposition by some MKs to the creation of the super-faction, which ostensibly moves Likud further to the right.

The concerns that Netanyahu is moving to the extreme right are only “meant to intimidate the public,” Galili-Zucker said, “but they have no basis in reality.” She added that the agreement between Likud and Yisrael Beytenu in fact brings Netanyahu more to a centrist position.

“Compared to [followers of far right-wing Likud member Moshe Feiglin] who represent the messianic extreme right, Liberman is a realistic politician,” according to Galili-Zucker. “Therefore the merger with him further expands the range of views that characterize the Likud.”

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