Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu Merge for Election

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- In an unexpected move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced a merger between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. The two parties will run as a joint list in the January election.

Speaking from Jerusalem's Dan Panorama Hotel, Netanyahu said merging the candidate slates "strengthens the government, strengthens the prime minister,and because of this, strengthens the country."

"Together, we will turn to the public for the mandate to lead with strength in the coming years," he said, citing security and the economy.

"We are asking the public for a mandate to deal with the security threats, at the top of which is stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and fighting terrorism," Netanyahu said. "We are asking for a mandate from the public to continue the changes in the economy, in education and in the need to lower the cost of living."

Lieberman agreed.

"In view of the challenges we're facing, we need responsibility on a national level," he said. "No more slivers of parties. We're providing a real alternative and an opportunity for the citizens to stabilize the leadership and the government."

The joint Knesset list will be called Likud-Beytenu, meaning "Likud is our home."

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said the merger will help the government do its job in view of the dangers Israel is facing.

The left denounced the move, especially Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, and Meretz head Zahava Gal-On. Yachimovich said she would not join a government led by Netanyahu and Lieberman.

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