Zionist Union Warns of Lack of Unity Among Opposition Parties

Source cites lack of common ground between Yisrael Beiteinu, Arab parties, warns that Netanyahu will be the beneficiary.

Olivier Fittousi

A senior Zionist Union official believes the opposition will have difficulty working together, which would strengthen Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There is no common denominator between [Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman and the Joint Arab List,” the official told Haaretz, adding that “the connection between Meretz and Yesh Atid is not strong enough.” The official said there were signs that Lieberman and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid were already working together, “but Meretz and the Arab parties have a completely different agenda.”

Members of Zionist Union said they believed that although the opposition had only two fewer members than the coalition (59 versus 61), this would manifest itself only in major votes. “In the less dramatic votes, the coalition will buy quite a few MKs by promising that they will advance legislation or projects for them if they disappear from the Knesset session at the right moment,” they said.

Zionist Union is to vote this week for its faction chairman – the MK who coordinates the opposition’s fights against the government and maneuvers among the competing factions that make up the coalition. A number of MKs are reportedly considering running for this important post: Stav Shaffir, Merav Michaeli, Omer Bar-Lev, Nachman Shai and the party’s secretary general, Hilik Bar.

A party source told Haaretz that “the person appointed can decide the fate of the opposition for good or for bad. A talented MK will be able to turn the opposition into a synchronized, energetic and combative body. A less successful MK could lose the reins to Lapid, who is trying to become the de facto head of the opposition.”

Another Zionist Union source said, “Obviously, [chairman Isaac] Herzog will want someone next to him who won’t make trouble if he decides to join Netanyahu in the future.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) said Saturday she might support the government’s social legislation, because in terms of its socioeconomic agenda, it is “far less terrible than its predecessors. There are a few really good ministers and, frankly, I have more in common with some of them than with many in the opposition,” she told activists in a letter.

Mentioning MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who holds the post of deputy health minister, Yacimovich said, “If a talented person like Litzman tells me one of his main tasks is universal state invalidity insurance, that is a huge issue, and there’s no way I won’t work with him.” Yacimovich then cited other members of Netanyahu’s cabinet: “Haim Katz in social affairs, Gila Gamliel with a social-affairs portfolio, [Moshe] Kahlon in the treasury, [Moshe] Gafni in the Finance Committee, Shas ministers we could find ourselves obligated to – voting for their initiatives, reforms and bills.”

Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister Lieberman said on Saturday he had no intention of joining the coalition while Netanyahu refuses to fundamentally change the government guidelines.

“Don’t offer me a thing. Not the Defense Ministry or a power-sharing agreement. Once you change the guidelines, we will be open to the possibility [of joining the government],” Lieberman said on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” last night.

“I agree that my voters wanted a nationalist government, a right-wing government,” Lieberman said, responded to the criticism that by refusing to join the government, he was acting contrary to his voters’ wishes. “But what we got is a government of opportunists with but one agenda – political survival.”

He harshly criticized Netanyahu’s decision not to appoint a foreign minister, and to keep the portfolio open so he could potentially lure Lieberman or Herzog into the government in the future.

“I think a person who belittles and patronizes his friends for years – I’m talking about the prime minster – can’t expect that they won’t pay him in kind when the time comes and he needs them. Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan should be asked how they feel. They aren’t in the opposition or in Yisrael Beiteinu.” Referring to Erdan’s unremitting support for Netanyahu’s positions, Lieberman said Erdan “ran from studio to studio, on radio and television, [yet] finds himself outside the government. That means a lot.”