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Thursday Oct. 25, 2012 8:02 PM (EST+7)
Israel's Netanyahu, ally Lieberman merge parties
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JERUSALEM, Oct 25 (Dan Williams/Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main coalition partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, plan to merge their right-wing parties ahead of Israel's Jan. 22 election, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.
EnlargeIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in Jerusalem, April 26, 2010. (AP/Bernat Armangue)


Multimedia
al-Jazeera Int: Concerns grow over Netanyahu rise
Feb. 24, 2009 8:36 AM (EST+7)
Interview with analyst Yossi Alpher
March 24, 2010 1:31 PM (EST+7)
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, May 20, 2011
May 21, 2011 3:04 PM (EST+7)
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Benjamin Netanyahu‘s Interview with ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos
Benjamin Netanyahu‘s speech to AIPAC, March 22, 2010
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Addresses a Joint Session of the US Congress, May 24, 2011
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Poll No. 68, June 2009 - Palestinian opinions towards the national dialogue in Cairo between Fateh and Hamas Movements
Poll No. 69 Part 1, October 2009 - Palestinian opinions on the Goldstone report and the upcoming elections
Poll No. 27, July 1998 - On Palestinian Attitudes Towards Israeli Parties
Background
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"Netanyahu: economics not politics is the key to peace," Haaretz
"Netanyahu's economic peace," Bitterlemons, Nov. 24, 2008
Haaretz chart presents 2009 vote according to city or sector


"The fact they reached agreement should be welcomed by all of us," Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, a stalwart from Netanyahu's Likud party, told Israel's Channel Two television. "There will be a really clearly defined nationalist, rightist camp here."

Netanyahu and Lieberman, who heads the ultra nationalist Israel Beiteinu ("Israel is Our Home") party, scheduled a joint news conference for 8.00 pm (1800 GMT).

According to Channel Two, the new party would be called Likud Beiteinu - "The Likud is Our Home". Erdan said the merger would be subject to the approval of the Likud central committee.

Such a move, if confirmed, would further strengthen Netanyahu's hand in the parliamentary election. A television poll aired on Monday saw the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu taking, respectively, 27 and 12 of parliament's 120 seats.

However, the merger might raise eyebrows abroad.

Lieberman, who lives in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, has publicly reviled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who the United States would like to see resume peace talks with the Netanyahu government.

"The prime minister is essentially signaling that he has chosen the extremist, pro-settlement right, that he has chosen to walk in place, not to make progress in the diplomatic process," Zehava Gal-On, head of the liberal Meretz party, told Israel's Army Radio.

Netanyahu has long sought broad-based and ideologically binding political alliances as an antidote to the diluted Israeli governance that can result from the preponderance of small parties which often pursue sectional interests.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak last year quit the helm of the center-left Labor party, dumping it from the coalition, to form a more conservative party of a piece with Netanyahu's policies.

Netanyahu then further widened the coalition this year by joining forces with the centrist Kadima party, though that partnership soon broke up over the government's failure to push through a reform of military conscription laws granting exemptions en masse to ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students.

Netanyahu might try to tackle the draft issue again with the help of the secularist Lieberman, given what appears to have been their decision not to inform Shas, the powerful religious party in the coalition, about their merger in advance.

"I was absolutely surprised by this," the Shas leader Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, predicting the move would prompt left-leaning and Orthodox parties to form their own blocs. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Stephen Powell)



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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in Jerusalem, April 26, 2010. (AP/Bernat Armangue)



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