Likud to Merge with Second Party for Elections

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Likud Central Committee members voted overwhelmingly Monday evening to run under a joint Knesset list with Yisrael Beitenu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the plan at a joint press conference in Jerusalem last Thursday.

At the Tel Aviv Fairground, Netanyahu reminded a cheering crowd the merger is about pooling resources to present a stronger ticket and not a permanent arrangement. Both parties will remain independent after the Jan. 22 election.

"We need unity and responsibility," Netanyahu said to enthusiastic applause. "The unity agreement will allow us to continue leading vigorously when we can rely on the massive bloc of a unified national camp."

"The Likud will remain an independent party that will continue to preserve Israel's security and Jewish heritage," the prime minister said.

Following his remarks, the vote passed easily.

"The entire procedure stems from a desire to avoid at all costs the possibility that another party will be able to get the first shot from President [Shimon] Peres at forming a government," Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of Independent Media Review and Analysis told CBN News.

"We live in a world where there are many things we don't anticipate," Lerner said.

He noted that running on a joint list would allow Netanyahu to garner enough support to form a stable coalition without the usual "budget-breaking concessions."

In early October, Netanyahu told coalition members he would call for early elections if he could not secure majority support for the national budget. And that's what happened.

A recent Maagar poll showed the joint Likud-Beiteinu ticket could win 42 seats if elections were held now, with the Labor party going from 13 to 23 mandates, which would make it the second largest faction.

Even Times of Israel reporter Raphael Ahren noted the majority at Monday night's meeting backed the merged Knesset list.

"Unlike some recent central committee meetings, the crowd seemed to accurately reflect the party's broad base," Ahren wrote. "And all of them, or almost all, were content to throw in their lot with the new Netanyahu-Liberman partnership."

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