Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he was merging his Likud party with that of his ultra nationalist coalition ally Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in a hard-right tack ahead of Israel’s Jan. 22 election.
Though the conservative Likud already led opinion polls, its joint list with Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu (“Israel is Our Home”) could win over wavering voters for a ballot sweep that Netanyahu saw empowering him to push through major policies.
Resuming stalled U.S.- and European-sponsored peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to be a high priority, however, given the disdain for his authority voiced by Lieberman, a settler in the occupied West Bank.
“In Israel, the prime minister needs a big, cohesive force behind him,” Netanyahu said at a news conference, citing a need to tackle security concerns like Iran’s nuclear programme as well as economic and social problems in Israel.
Running with Lieberman, Netanyahu predicted, would yield “a clear mandate that will allow me to focus on the main issues, rather than trifles”.
Battered by partisan sniping during his first term as premier in the late 1990s, when Lieberman served as his chief of staff, Netanyahu has since sought broad-based and ideologically binding political alliances.
Lieberman has also called for an overhaul to the fractious political system, where a low threshold of minimum votes allows for a multitude of small special-interest parties in parliament.
“Real reform of governance begins, effectively, today,” the Moldovan-born foreign minister said alongside Netanyahu.