The Likud’s joint list agreement with Yisrael Beytenu may go up for vote by secret ballot during the party’s Central Committee meeting Monday, after opponents of the move garnered more than the 400 signatures needed to force the secret vote. However, at least 400 of those signatories will need to be present at the meeting for their demand to be met.
According to Likud party rules, 10 percent of the central committee membership’s signatures were required in order to bring an issue to secret ballot, and those signatures were obtained in the past few days.
Those who oppose the recently announced alliance have been pushing for a secret ballot vote in hopes that if Likud members would not have to openly defy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they would be more likely to oppose the deal. Most analysts believe the deal will win approval, even in a secret vote.
Netanyahu on Sunday defended his deal with Yisrael Beytenu’s chairman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, to run a joint list for the January 2013 elections, saying it was a “step that guarantees we will build the next government.”
According to the agreement, Liberman is slated to hold the second slot on the joint list behind Netanyahu. Netanyahu said Sunday that Liberman was given the freedom to choose between one of the three senior Cabinet portfolios: Foreign Affairs, Finance or Defense, and that Liberman had chosen to remain at the helm of the Foreign Ministry.
Emphasizing that a joint list is not the same as a party merger, Netanyahu said the Likud will not change its party platform and that the deal is for an alliance on election day, not a full-scale merger. Elaborating, the prime minister said, “it is an important step towards forming a unified bloc, and changing the system of governance.” He also rejected claims that he had agreed to rotate the premiership with Liberman, stepping down as prime minister in year four, saying “I’m not going anywhere, and there is no talk of successors.”
Minister of Improvement of Government Services Michael Eitan, the alliance’s most vocal critic in the Likud, demanded to see the text of the agreement on the deal, but according to Israel Radio, Netanyahu rejected the demand and said there was no detailed written agreement.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio on Sunday that he supported the joint list between the two parties, but that he told Netanyahu that it would have been better to consult with party members rather than to present the plan as a fait accompli.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close ally of Netanyahu, welcomed the agreement with Yisrael Beytenu, saying that he supported the idea of large parties.
Privately, some Likud members are said to believe that Netanyahu panicked into agreeing to the alliance, and that it would backfire. Channel 10 said Friday that Netanyahu was concerned about former prime minister Ehud Olmert returning to politics and heading a merged center-left bloc including Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, Kadima, and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. Its news report claimed Olmert was now more inclined than he had been to make a political comeback, despite various legal obstacles that could still stand in his way.
Channel 2 analyst Amnon Abramovich suggested Netanyahu had fallen prey to poor polling predictions by conservative political adviser Arthur J. Finkelstein. Insiders claimed Thursday that internal polls had shown a Likud-Yisrael Beytenu alliance could win 50 seats in the 120-member Knesset (currently the Likud has 27 and Yisrael Beytenu has 15). But some in the Likud believe the allied list would win only 32 seats, the TV analysts said.
According to a Channel 10 poll published Friday, among Likud voters, 26% said they opposed the alliance, and 22% said that they would not vote for the joint list. 58% of those surveyed said that they support the joint list, and only 52% said they would vote for it.
Among Yisrael Beytenu voters, 35% said they opposed the alliance, with 51% backing it; and a substantial 32% said they would not vote for the joint list, compared to 40% who would.