Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, presented his party’s slate for the March 17 Knesset election last night. Despite polls that show the party getting only five to seven seats in the next Knesset, Lieberman presented the first 30 names.
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After Lieberman in the top spot are two women, MK Orly Levi-Abekasis and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. They are followed by the only two new relatively high-profile newcomers, Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat and former journalist Sharon Gal.
Several party figures are being investigated for alleged corruption, but Lieberman urged his Jerusalem audience of several hundred party members not to be swayed by analyses and opinion polls and predicted success on March 17.
In presenting Shohat, Lieberman compared him favorably to Labor Party MK Stav Shaffir, a leader of the 2011 social protests. “Ilan Shohat is social-minded,” Lieberman said. “What does Stav Shaffir know? How to create a demonstration of pampered people on Rothschild Boulevard in deluxe conditions. What does she know about the periphery?”
MK Hamad Amar, who is Druze, is sixth on the slate. Lieberman praised him and said he could be a cabinet minister if Yisrael Beiteinu joins the coalition. No. 7 on the slate is the party’s Knesset whip, MK Robert Ilatov, followed by former Immigrant Absorption Ministry Director General Oded Forer and Holon council member Yulia Malinovsky. Shira Mistrial, the chairwoman of the Ariel University student union, rounds out the top 10.
Lieberman excluded most of his party’s ministers in the outgoing government from the slate: Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and Tourism Minister Uzi Landau. MK David Rotem announced he would not run, as did party general secretary Faina Kirshenbaum, a subject of the corruption investigation. “I thank the cabinet ministers, each of whom decided for his own reasons not to continue on in the Knesset, but that doesn’t mean they will not remain in the party,” Lieberman noted.
Lieberman’s presentation of his party’s slate makes it apparent that there are at least three other party MKs who are not high enough on the ticket to guarantee their return to the Knesset: Alex Miller (11th place), Leon Litinetsky (12) and Shimon Ohayon (14). Litinetsky entered the Knesset only in November.
Lieberman’s campaign slogan is “Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine,” implying an eventual territorial swap in which the West Bank settlement of Ariel would be annexed to Israel and the northern Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm would come under Palestinian rule. In a return to a concept that he has mentioned on the campaign trail in prior elections, Lieberman also promised that the party would attempt to pass a “loyalty law,” presumably directed at Israeli Arabs, that would require any 16-year-old who applies for an Israeli identity card to sign a statement of allegiance to the state seal, the national anthem and the Israeli flag in order to receive the benefits of citizenship.
In remarks on Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority, which controls much of the West Bank, he said that both Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should be expelled.