Likud Minister Calls for Secret Ballot on Merger With Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu

Michael Eitan criticized the move announced by Netanyahu, saying the deal will 'destroy the Likud movement' and threaten Israeli democracy.

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A top Likud official, and a vocal critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's move to unite the party with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, is calling for a secret ballot on the merger in an upcoming Likud convention.

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Lieberman announced the surprise bid to merge the two right-wing parties, with the foreign minister saying on Friday that the move heralded a de facto reform in Israel's system of governance.

The move is due to be approved at the Likud convention on Monday.

Immediately following Thursday's announcement, improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan criticized the move, saying the "agreement, if it goes into effect, it will destroy the Likud movement, and threaten Israeli democracy."

Addressing the planned merger on Friday, Eitan posted a message on his official Facebook page, announcing the onset of "a democratic struggle in the Likud convention: The goal is to convince the members and Netanyahu that the merger is a mistake, which will hurt Likud and won't deliver the promised results."

In the message, Eitan urges Likud members to sign a petition calling for a secret ballot on the merger, saying that on Monday "we will collect the forms, submit them, and make sure the decision is made in a democratic manner."

Speaking at a press conference in Ramat Gan's Kfar Maccabiah Hotel earlier Friday, Lieberman addressed the move, rejecting claims that it was initiated to disarm the possible political threat of a rising center-left bloc of parties.

"As you may know, we're not scared of anything," the foreign minister said, adding that the merger was planned for some time prior to its announcement. "Negotiations began a year ago, with a final decision reached almost two months ago.

Lieberman also reiterated what he saw as the move's importance in regards to the possibility of a reform in Israeli's system of governance, saying: "We may never reach the United States' two-party system, but we can achieve three or four large parties."

"It's much more appropriate to lead the country with large parties, as opposed to fragments of parties," the foreign minister said, adding that he hoped Israeli citizens saw that there was "no alternative to this list, one which can lead the country in the next four years and nine months."

Michael Eitan during a special government meeting in Tirat Carmel, following the massive Carmel blaze, Dec. 5, 2010.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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