Yisrael Beytenu and the Likud will continue to operate as a joint Knesset faction for the time being but a decision on a formal merger has been postponed.
The decision not to end the alliance with the Likud was made by the Yisrael Beytenu conference on Sunday evening, and followed a request from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had asked Yisrael Beytenu to postpone a decision on the future of its alliance with the Likud, citing the current complex political reality.
Addressing the party conference, Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said, "In recent weeks we conducted a number of in-depth discussions on the continuation of our partnership with the Likud in different settings: in meetings with MKs and ministers, with the Secretariat and with the political committee of Yisrael Beytenu.
“The trend expressed by most of the speakers was clear, but following a request from the Prime Minister to postpone a decision on the subject, given the complex political situation, including the issue of Iran, as well as the negotiations with the Palestinians and other issues on the agenda, I would like to honor the request of the Prime Minister and not decide on this issue today,” added Liberman.
Likud and Yisrael Beytenu forged an alliance prior to the last national election. While internal surveys conducted by Likud showed that the merger would increase the number of mandates shared by the parties, analysts warned that the move could become the biggest political mistake in the elections.
Ultimately, the joint list won only 31 seats in the elections, far below the number it expected to achieve. The joint list was the Knesset’s largest faction, but the number of seats shared between the two factions was down from 42 seats in the last Knesset.
In his remarks on Sunday evening, Liberman admitted that the election results following the alliance with the Likud were “disappointing.” He added that he believes that a true and strong alliance of nationalist parties should include Yisrael Beytenu, the Likud and the religious Zionist Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) party.
“Unfortunately the results were disappointing and so I suggested to the Prime Minister and all those who belong to the national camp that if we are talking about a merger, it should include the full consolidation of all the parties - Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi,” said Liberman.
“Creating one big party that will include all the elements could indeed be the correct answer to previous attempts we’ve made in past years so we get the anticipated result,” added the Foreign Minister, who stressed, “This is not an offer nor a recommendation at the present time, only food for thought that requires a thorough examination.”
Yisrael Beytenu is expected to remain with Likud at least until December, when the Likud party will hold a similar meeting to discuss the two factions’ alliance.
Analysts have speculated that, since Likud members are hesitant to formally merge with Yisrael Beytenu, a decision will be passed at the December conference that will stop a formal merger between the parties.