Israel's Politicians Realign Ahead of Elections

Economist Shlomo Maoz to run with Likud; Nachman Shai defects to Labor; Dov Lipman linked to Yesh Atid.

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Kadima MK Nachman Shai announced last night that he is joining the Labor party and is expected to contend for a place on its Knesset list. Although the move had been expected for weeks, Shai said that he made the decision following the union between the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu which was announced Thursday, sensing an immediate need to unify the political center and pose a counterforce to the right.

"The Labor party poses a clear alternative to the Netanyahu-Lieberman party," Shai said, referring to the merger announced last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"[The party] presents a social, economic and diplomatic path that will assure the future of the State of Israel as a state of law, a Jewish-democratic state. I believe that [Labor chairwoman] Shelly Yacimovich is the right person to lead the country to make the required changes, and I support her for prime minister," he said.

Yacimovich welcomed Shai's decision, saying in a statement that "Shai is one of the Knesset's outstanding MKs, and given his positions on a number of issues it was expected that he would find a home in the Labor party. Nahman was an active and effective partner with regard to several laws that I got passed and in the battle against privatizing state lands, and I will be happy to see him as a Labor MK."

Also, economist Shlomo Maoz announced that he would contend for a place on the Likud Knesset list. "I'm an economist who wants to help people. I've succeeded and done well for my family. I've done everything in life, and I can do something different," Maoz told Channel 2's "Meet the Press." "I agree with Netanyahu's policies, which also show concern for the weak."

Maoz was one of the harshest critics of the 2011 social protest. He was fired last January from his position as chief economist of the Excellence investment house for remarks he made during a lecture at Sapir College, when he referred to Bank Leumi as "the white people's bank, where only whites can get jobs." He also said the social protesters were "Students who pay NIS 12,000 a year. Is it fair that in colleges [students] pay NIS 40,000 a year? Students in colleges didn't have time to protest because they had to work. That's not social justice."

Shas issued a statement slamming Maoz, saying, "Likud-Beiteinu has gotten significant reinforcement for its leaders' economic doctrine. In 2005, Maoz enthusiastically supported the cuts in allowances."

Yesh Atid is also getting a new member - Rabbi Shai Piron, who is expected to announce this morning at a press conference that he's joining Yair Lapid's list. According to a party announcement, Piron will be No. 2 on the list. Piron, who heads the Petah Tikva Yeshiva institutions, was one of the founders of the Tzohar rabbinic organization.

Anglo rabbi and political activist Dov Lipman, of Beit Shemesh, refused to confirm or deny rumors that he will be running for the Knesset on the Yesh Atid list. "I have announced my support for Yair Lapid and his party," Lipman told Haaretz . "When I have any further news to report I will do so."

Lipman, educator, author and community activist is head of Yesh Atid's branch in Beit Shemesh, where he lives with his wife and four children.

Revital Hovel and Zvi Zerahiya contributed to this report.

Yesh Atid's Rabbi Dov Lipman.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen