Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday sought to assure worried members of his Likud party that he is not going anywhere.
Speaking at the Likud Central Committee meeting, where members of the party approved its joint election list with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu said, "I have been hearing talk about heirs. Well, I have news for you: I'm going to continue to lead the State of Israel for many years and the Likud will continue to lead the State of Israel for many more years."
He was referring to speculations by some that the joint list with Yisrael Beytenu, in which Lieberman will be number two, will pave the way for Lieberman to eventually lead the Likud, taking Netanyahu’s spot, and perhaps even be Prime Minister.
The Likud's Central Committee voted to approve the joint election list by an overwhelming majority. According to the agreement, Netanyahu and Lieberman will work together to build a list which will include all current MKs in both parties. The order of the Likud members of the list will be based on the amount of votes they receive in the upcoming party primaries.
Despite a great deal of media hype, it turned out that the only minister to oppose the union was Michael Eitan. Although he claimed that he had enough signatures to require a secret ballot – and convinced a Likud judicial panel to order that a secret ballot be conducted – it turned out that he did not have the required signature, and the vote was conducted via voice vote.
Speaking after the meeting, Lieberman said that he was very happy that the union was approved. “This is a historic development, which will strengthen the state of Israel and enable it to be better defended. We will be able to form a strong, stable government that will be able to meet the challenges from outside and within Israel,” he said.
The Labor party criticized the union saying, “The new campaign slogan of Prime Minister Netanyahu indeed reflects him and his partner, Avigdor Lieberman - power, power, and more power. Instead of responsibility, leadership, solidarity and concern for the citizens - power.”
A Teleseker survey conducted for Maariv and published earlier on Monday gives "Likud Beytenu," as the combined party has been dubbed, 43 Knesset seats – one more than the two parties currently share between them.
Were elections held today, Netanyahu would have an easy time forming the next government, Maariv wrote.