Likud's Immigrant or Lieberman's Likudnik?

Michael Gurolevsky is set to become the Likud's first immigrant representative in the Knesset, after he won the coveted immigrant slot on the party's list on Sunday night.

A total of 11 candidates were vying for the spot - the 29th in the list - in a party which boasts 15 percent membership from Russian-speaking immigrants. Gurolevsky's success came as a surprise to many, but not to the candidate himself. Speaking to Ha'aretz before Sunday's Likud primaries, Gurolevsky was full of confidence that he would be elected. So much so, in fact, that last month he quit his job as head of the Postal Authority's immigrant marketing division, after three years in the job.

Gurolevsky immigrated to Israel from the Russian town of Gorky (now known as Nizhniy Novgorod) in 1988, and joined the Likud shortly after arriving in Israel. He was the head of the party's immigrant division from 1993 to 1996, and played a major part in the election success of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.

During his three years as a Likud employee, Gurolevsky also formed a close personal friendship with National Union chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who was director of the Prime Minister's Office at the time. The two men are neighbors at the Nokdim settlement.

No-one really knows the exact nature of the relationship between Gurolevsky and Lieberman during those years. Some say that Gurolevsky was Lieberman's chauffeur, other say he was his bodyguard. In any case, the friendship has paid spectacular dividends now. Throughout his campaign for the reserved immigrant spot. Gurolevsky was described as Lieberman's candidate. Even though Lieberman has been head of a different party for the past three years, he still boasts substantial power and influence within the Likud. After Sunday's primaries, the Likud has its first immigrant representative in the Knesset and Lieberman has his first representative on the Likud list.