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Israel: Netanyahu, Lieberman join forces and plan to merge right-wing parties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman plan to merge their right-wing parties.

Israel netanyahu lieberman join forces october 25 2012Enlarge
A combo of two pictures shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Avigdor Lieberman, from the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party. Netanyahu and Lieberman plan to merge their right-wing parties ahead of next year's elections. (GALI TIBBON/STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, announced plans to merge their right-wing parties ahead of the election next year.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Netanyahu said the unification was "for a better Israel," according to The Jerusalem Post.

"This is the time to show strength to our enemies and unity among us," Netanyahu said.

The new united party will be "based on true partnership," he said. The joint Knesset — the name for Israel's parliament — group will be called "The Likud-Beytenu" party, said The Jerusalem Post.

"Israel needs to unite forces for the sake of Israel. Therefore Likud and Yisrael Beteinu will run together on the same ticket in the next elections," Netanyahu said, according to the Associated Press.

"We are asking for a mandate from the public to lead Israel against the security threats foremost preventing Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons and the struggle against terror."

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"The fact they reached agreement should be welcomed by all of us," said Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, of Netanyahu's Likud party, according to Reuters. "There will be a really clearly defined nationalist, rightist camp here."

However, the move to unify still has to pass approval by Likud's convention, Israeli newspaper Haaretz said. The newspaper said the merger "may be an attempt to overpower a possible unification between centrist and left-wing parties."

The AP noted that the merger of the two parties makes the new bloc a clear front-runner in the elections to be held in January. It will also give ultranationalist Lieberman, a strong opponent of concessions, a major say in future peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Opposition lawmakers said the alliance would alienate moderate voters.

The Labor party's leader, Shelly Yachimovich, said, "I call on all the centrist forces in the Israeli political map to join with Labor ... to not let the Lieberman-Netanyahu government rule," according to the AP.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/121025/israel-netanyahu-lieberman-join-forces