The Yisrael Beytenu party has decided to run independently in the next national elections, despite having merged with Likud in the last elections, Voice of Israel public radio reported Thursday. In a closed meeting of the Yisrael Beytenu management on Sunday, party secretary-general Faina Kirshenbaum said that party leader Avigdor Liberman favors running independently and so do the heads of party branches and members of the secretariat.
Kirshenbaum said that Liberman does not want to embarrass Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or destabilize the Coalition, and the only question is when a formal announcement will be given.
The merger, in October 2012, came shortly before Liberman was indicted on criminal charges and in anticipation of this development. Liberman has since been acquitted. Liberman's party appeals mostly to immigrants from Russian-speaking countries. It was founded in 1999, when Liberman left Likud, after many years in which he worked in close partnership with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The report about Yisrael Beytenu's intentions comes a day after Netanyahu persuaded an internal Likud court to prevent the party's Central Committee from voting to end the partnership with Yisrael Beytenu 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.
Kirshanbaum also said that her party would not agree to any change in the Coalition, be it the entry of hareidi parties instead of Yesh Atid, or Labor instead of the Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi). “There is no reason to change the Coalition and we must find a way to live with each other without stepping on each other,” she said.