The joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu Knesset list could bring the two parties 45 seats, according to Arthur Finkelstein, who advised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and encouraged to go ahead with the union.
“I have believed for several years that such a union is a good move,” Finkelstein told Channel 2 News in an interview Saturday. “Separately, Netanyahu and Lieberman have a similar electorate and each will contribute something to the other - together they are much more powerful.”
Speaking about the practical effects of the union, Finkelstein said, “The union will not only result in a stronger political coalition, because it will be easier to win the election with a united right bloc - it also makes Israel safer and more stable. It’s good for them, it's good for the country and good for the Jewish people.”
He predicted that the two parties “will receive at least the 42 seats they have now ... In the end, the people who supported Likud and Yisrael Beytenu in the past will remain united. I expect them to receive another three to five seats precisely because it would be a unified right bloc. I believe they will have 45 seats, or two to three more or less.”
Such a unification, noted Finkelstein, “may attract more people from the center-right - especially those who went with Ariel Sharon to the Kadima party. This union should be very successful, because Israel is a country with a clear right majority.”
The first poll conducted after the surprise merger on Thursday night found that the change did not significantly strengthen the right. The mixed Likud-Yisrael Beytenu party would get 33 seats, pollsters found, more than the Likud had previously been expected to get, but less than the two parties had been expected to get while running separately.
The merger did not significantly change the balance between left and right-wing parties, which remained roughly even.
A Channel 10 News poll released on Friday found that 26% of Likud voters said they were opposed to the move. Of that number, 22% of voters indicated they would not vote for the Likud party in January’s elections.
The poll, however, is an initial one, and more than anything reflects the gut reaction of Likud voters to the move.
Lieberman revealed on Friday that the bombshell announcement was one year in the making.
“Talks about uniting started one year ago,” he said at an afternoon news conference. “A final decision was made nearly two months ago.”
“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.