ANALYSIS / Likud's strategy against Yisrael Beiteinu? Kid gloves
Likud will likely need Avigdor Lieberman's party as coalition partner should it form next government.
Likud is currently being careful not to attack Yisrael Beiteinu in its campaign, even though it has lost votes to the latter over the last few weeks. Likud is assuming it will need Avigdor Lieberman's party as a coalition partner should it form the next government.
For the same reason, campaign activists have been given strict instructions not to say anything against Lieberman personally.
And for now, at least, Lieberman appears to be returning the favor: His campaign has not targeted either Likud or its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Each day Likud campaign officials reevaluate the decision not to attack Yisrael Beiteinu, but for now, they are unanimous in agreeing that this would be unwise - especially given Lieberman's popularity among Russian immigrants. As a result, Likud is searching for other, less direct methods of wooing voters away from Lieberman.
One method is by telling voters that it is important to vote Likud so that Netanyahu, rather than Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni, forms the next government. Lieberman is not considered a serious contender for prime minister, so this is not a slap at Yisrael Beiteinu.
At the same time, Likud is promising that Lieberman will be a senior partner in any Netanyahu government.
For now, Likud officials say, the movement of voters from Likud to Yisrael Beiteinu is not large enough to warrant drastic measures. But they are keeping a close eye on the matter.
Likud is also trying not to attack other, smaller rightist parties, because it prefers to stay focused on its principal rival, Kadima.
Kadima, however, is hoping that the mutual civility between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu breaks down well before the elections. Kadima is fighting a two-front war, against Likud and Labor, and would like nothing better than to see its main rival faced with the same problem.
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