Likud Postpones Vote on Merger with Yisrael Beytenu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was able to save himself from embarrassment and scored a win against opponents from his own Likud party on Wednesday evening.
Netanyahu’s representatives were able to persuade an internal Likud court to prevent the party's Central Committee from voting to end the partnership with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party at the Likud convention.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who heads the Likud Central Committee, had planned to bring the motion to a vote on Wednesday evening. The motion would have kept the current situation, where the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu are functioning as separate factions in the Knesset after running in a joint list in the elections, but would have rejected any future permanent union between the parties.
Despite the defeat, Danon vowed to bring the motion to a vote at a future convention.
"I will not provide interpretations to the moves made by the party chairman and Prime Minister, but without a doubt, the term ‘Likud Beytenu’ is a controversial one and as befits a democratic movement, a majority will determine its fate,” declared Danon.
He added that the issue of the union with Liberman’s party "will come before the Likud Central Committee for a decision.”
Netanyahu did not openly object to Danon’s proposal but is concerned that passing such a motion at the present time would cause tension with Liberman’s party.
Officials close to Netanyahu said Tuesday night that toughening the attitude against Yisrael Beytenu may cause Liberman to separate the two factions completely and even leave the coalition, leaving Netanyahu with a weakened Likud which only has 20 seats, only one more than Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
The motion was expected to pass had it been brought forward, since many Central Committee members oppose a union with Yisrael Beytenu, seeing as it has already blocked key Likud representatives from entering the Knesset.
Last month, the Yisrael Beytenu conference decided to postpone a final decision on a union with the Likud, following a request from Netanyahu who cited the current complex political reality.
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.