Daily Israel Report

Ramon Calls for Center-Left Unity

Former MK Haim Ramon says Israel’s center-left parties must unite in response to the unity between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 10/26/2012, 11:00 PM

Haim Ramon
Haim Ramon
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Former MK Haim Ramon, one of the founders of Kadima, on Friday called on Israel’s center-left parties to unite in response to the unity between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties.

"Given the sense of emergency (because of the unity in the right –ed.), the center and the left should unite and place at the head the man or woman who is the best suited to be prime minister,” Ramon told Channel 2 News. He declined to name one candidate or another to head such a united party, and said that if potential candidates “do not understand this, they cannot lead.”

He proceeded to attack the current government, saying, “We had four years of an extreme right-wing government with hareidim and settlers and now it's clear – what we’re going to get, without masks, is an extreme right-wing government in every way. This will be the last battle for the image of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We want to avoid a government that will lead us to a bi-national state and the most swinish capitalism we’ve ever had here, an alliance with an extreme right-wing agenda."

Ramon, who quit Kadima last May, soon after it joined a unity government with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, announced several months ago that he will establish a new centrist party to compete with Kadima. It has been reported that former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni may head Ramon's party.

Even before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s surprise announcement on Thursday, there were growing calls for the center-left to unite. However, such a union seems unlikely at the moment since the parties do not seem to agree on much. Yair Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid (Future) party, has outright rejected a unity with the Labor party. Lapid has categorized Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich as an extreme leftist, while characterizing his own party as centrist, and has said there is nothing in common between the two parties to materialize such a union.

Meanwhile Yechimovich, who disagrees with Lapid’s characterization and describes herself as centrist-left, has called on all the centrist forces on the Israeli political map to join the Labor party.

It is also unlikely that Kadima, headed by Shaul Mofaz and currently the Knesset’s largest party, could lead such a union, as most polls have shown it either disappearing completely or barely passing the electoral threshold. It has been suggested that only the return of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the political fold can save Kadima, as well as the whole bloc, but Olmert may ultimately choose not to return given his legal issues.

“If you had told me a week ago that Lieberman and Bibi would get together and establish this ‘Bibiman’, I would have said it's not possible. We did not know it was going to happen and it feels odd,” Ramon told Channel 2, warning that the future of Israel is at stake if one center-left party is not formed.

Also appearing on Channel 2 News on Friday was Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who said that he had known for several months that there was a possibility that the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu would run in a joint list.

“This is the right move, and it is great that it was not leaked,” said Steinitz, adding, “There is a clear insight, Netanyahu should lead the country.”

Steinitz said he agreed with Ramon that the left and center parties should also unite.

“I'm always in favor of governance, enough with the separation of the parties, splits upon splits,” he said. “We need to go back to parties that achieve 40 to 50 seats. We're in favor of united lists.”

Earlier on Friday, Lieberman revealed that the bombshell announcement was one year in the making. He also said that governing is much easier when large parties are involved.

“We must move away from the reality of many parties,” Lieberman declared. “Apparently we will never reach two parties like the United States, but we have to guarantee stability and ability to rule. Our race together definitely creates a new reality and I hope it is clear to everyone that there is no other alternative.”

“Everyone understands that it is much easier, and better, to manage the country with large parties and not fragments of parties with a lifespan of a single term and no ideology,” he continued.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)