With the deadline for submitting list of Knesset candidates only four days away, Effie Eitam’s Achi party and the Likud are rushing to complete negotiations for a technical alliance of the two, in time for the upcoming elections.
Details of the arrangement are sparse, but it appears that Eitam, and possibly also his Achi ally Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, will be inserted into the current Likud list.
Eitam will bring to the agreement, in addition to his electoral value, 12 million Israeli shekels in hard cash – Achi’s share of the National Union faction money apportioned by the Knesset. This aspect of the deal was harshly criticized in the political arena. Labor MK Ophir Pines said, “[Likud chairman Binyamin] Netanyahu has made a dirty deal with Eitam. He’s again feeling the pressure because his party is in financial trouble, so he sold the party to the extreme right for 12 million shekels. This behavior is just a preface to what he will do if he becomes Prime Minister; he won’t hesitate to violate his promises in order to placate the extreme right-wing and the hareidim.”
Kadima MK Shlomo Mola has asked the Central Elections Committee to intervene and void the deal, and has also asked the State Comptroller to investigate its legality.
Eitam to Education Ministry?
In addition, according to some reports, Eitam has been promised a “senior public position” if and when Netanyahu puts together the next government. Spokesmen for Eitam have denied this.
The position in question could very well be Minister of Education; Netanyahu has promised that this portfolio would remain in the Likud, which, by a slight stretch, could mean that it would remain in the Likud-Achi list. In addition, though Eitam retired from the IDF with the rank of Brig.-Gen., and has expressed interest in becoming Defense Minister, he has expressed similar interest in the realm of education. After leaving the army at the end of 2000, he deliberated for a while between entering politics and starting a mass educational movement to “strengthen the spirit and morale of the country's citizens.”
Attorneys for both the Likud and Achi are hoping to hammer out final details in time for the Achi secretariat – and possibly the Likud Central Committee as well - to convene on Thursday and approve the agreement.
Eitam did not seek a spot on the Jewish Home list, largely because of his long personal rivalry with one of its most senior figures, former National Religious Party (NRP) leader Zevulun Orlev. MK Levy also removed his name from the list of potential candidates after it was decided not to hold primaries for the party leader.
In other nationalist camp news, Aryeh Eldad is taking very seriously a particular poll by Channel Two. It indicates, for the first time, that his party will receive at least 2% of the vote, the minimum necessary for Knesset representation, and will thus receive three Knesset seats. He has not responded to calls from Baruch Marzel and Rabbi Dov Wolpe to run together with their “Our Land of Israel” party – calls that are intended to prevent the fragmentation that has caused such harm to the nationalist wing in the past.
MK Uri Ariel continues to deliberate as well, over whether to run with Marzel/Wolpe or to remain in the Jewish Home party. The latter has taken on a “moderate” bent – possibly too much so for Ariel, who objects to joining a government that would consider giving away parts of the Land of Israel.