After almost 30 years of bitter infighting, leaders of the rival camps in the Likud party branch in Be'er Sheva have finally buried the hatchet. The rival groups have signed an agreement on the joint selection of the city's representatives to party institutions, and on who will hold various local party offices.
The identities of the warring camps' favored prime ministerial candidates have changed over the years: Once, the division was between supporters of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and supporters of his rival, David Levy; today, it is between supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those of his rival, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom. But the war itself continued unabated. Thus the new agreement - which one veteran Likud member termed "an end-of-days vision" and another called "historic" - took everyone by surprise.
Under it, Netanyahu's supporters in the branch promised to back Shalom in the voting that determines the Likud's Knesset slate, so as to ensure that he gets one of the top three slots. In exchange, Shalom's backers promised to support Netanyahu as long as he remains prime minister.
Shimon Boker, a vocal Netanyahu supporter who heads the Be'er Sheva branch, said he decided to push for an agreement because the infighting "was just causing damage to our movement. The Be'er Sheva branch was the most divided" in the country.
Aside from bringing Likud more votes in national elections, he said, a united branch will force MKs and ministers to pay more attention to Be'er Sheva's concerns.
"We sat down and realized that because of the divisions, smaller branches were having more influence than we did," explained another Be'er Sheva Likudnik, Yair Maimon.
The agreement states that the branch head will henceforth be a Shalom supporter, while the chairman and secretary of the branch's governing council will be from Netanyahu's camp. It also states that the branch - the largest in the south - will unite behind efforts to get a Likud member from Be'er Sheva into the Knesset in the next election.
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