The central committee of the Labor Party is expected to convene tonight to approve the decision to run a joint slate with Hatnuah in the March 17 general election. The panel must also approve the rotation of the position of prime minister between Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah chairwoman Tzipi Livni, in the event the joint list is called to form a government after the election. The committee must also approve the possibility of bringing in “additional partners,” unspecified as yet.
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Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz is thought likely to join the two parties and to be given a high place on the slate, meaning he would be likely to win election. Livni also invited Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, a key figure in Israel’s social-justice movement, to join the slate.
Meanwhile, the former Minister of Science, Culture and Sport and Labor MK Ghaleb Majadele may be named acting MK for Labor, until the March election. He would replace MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who announced his resignation from the Knesset last week, after the next person on the list, Daniel Atar, the head of the Gilboa Regional Council, said he would not serve.
Committee members will be asked to approve the top positions on the joint list, whose names they are not expected to receive until a few hours before the vote. Nevertheless, the panel is expected to approve the resolutions by a large majority.
The Council of Torah Sages advising Shas are to decide today whether to oust MK Eli Yishai from the party over his plans to form a rival party. Yishai is reportedly continuing to weigh his options, including retirement from political life or founding a new party, with or without former members of Habayit Hayehudi.
Sources close to Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri said he would fully comply with the decision of rabbis Shalom Cohen and Rabbi Shimon Ba’adani. Ba’adani, who is closest to Yishai among Shas leaders, has been talking with Yishai about the terms for his remaining in the party. Deri announced that Yishai would be his number 2 on the slate and would receive a senior ministerial appointment in the next government if Shas joins the coalition.
Yishai has asked to have a say in the composition of the candidates’ slate and in the Council of Torah Sages. Deri has asked that Yishai to give him a letter or resignation that could be invoke in the event Deri felt Yishai was not submitting to his authority. Most of the demands presented were rejected.
As part of his activities toward founding a new party, Yishai on Friday sought the blessing of the leading “Lithuanian” (non-Hasidic) Ashkenazi Haredi rabbi, Aharon Leib Shteinman. Shas officials were reportedly livid over the meeting, regarding it as interference in its internal affairs. Associates of Shteinman said in a statement that there was no discussion of a split in Shas.
Yishai hopes to establish a party that would appeal to a broad spectrum of religious voters, but it is now thought that MK Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi), who conceived of the new party together with Yishai, will remain in his own party in the end.
Meanwhile, Deri and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett spoke on Friday, and Bennett is negotiating with Ariel to revamp the joint Tkumah-Habayit Hayehudi slate. The surprising Bennett-Deri axis could weaken the Ariel-Yishai axis.
Sources close to Yishai told Haaretz last night that Yishai was still making major efforts to stay in Shas, but that Deri was rejecting Yishai’s overtures.
In other party news, yesterday Likud figures sharply criticized Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman after the Yisrael Beiteinu leader said he did not “rule out” joining either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Isaac Herzog after the election.
“Lieberman’s comments about his willingness to sit in a Herzog-led government prove that voting for Lieberman could shift votes from the right to the left and lead to a left-wing government,” Likud said in a statement. “It is clear that anyone who wants a strong and big government headed by Netanyahu, based on the right and center-right bloc, must vote this time for Likud.”
Likud MK Yariv Levin echoed the criticism, calling Lieberman an “extreme leftist who supports Ahmad Tibi,” on Channel 2’s Meet the Press.
“Israel’s citizens are interested in hearing opinions and not slander, and we will continue to talk to the point about how to keep the State of Israel as a strong Jewish country, and will not be dragged into unnecessary confrontations,” Yisrael Beiteinu said in a statement.
At an event in Tel Aviv earlier yesterday Lieberman said his party “absolutely does not belong to the ‘anyone but Bibi’ camp.” He praised the merger of the Labor and Hatnuah slates, saying he was for large political frameworks, but criticized Livni and Herzog for “speaking of rotations and constellations, instead of discussing essence and content.
“In every election held since Yisrael Beitenu’s founding in 1999 it was proven that its power is expanding, we always have been growing and we will run independently in these elections, in the hope that we will continue to grow, also in comparison to what we achieved in 2009,” Lieberman said.
Meanwhile, Likud MK Danny Danon, who is challenging Netanyahu for leadership of the party, addressed recent rumors of a possible Likud-Habayit Hayehudi merger. Speaking at an event in Netanya, Danon said he would prevent any attempt to bring the parties together before the election.
“The irresponsible merger being discussed by certain parties within Likud will cause us to lose votes, and even to lose the reins of power,” Danon said, adding that promises that such a move would increase the parties’ representation in the Knesset were “as worthless as the ones made to us two years ago, ahead of the merger with Lieberman.” “I will stop any attempts at mergers that will hurt the Likud party, and the power of the national camp,” said Danon, referring to an umbrella term used to describe the Israeli Zionist right wing parties