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May 28, 2019 4:52 pm

As Potential Repeat Elections Loom, Likud Merges With Centrist Kulanu Party

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend a ceremony for the signing of a housing agreement in Sderot, April 9, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen / File.

With Israel facing potential repeat elections as the deadline for coalition talks loomed with no breakthrough in sight, the centrist Kulanu party merged on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.

Negotiations broke down this week between Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman over the issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students into the IDF. If Netanyahu cannot form a government by Wednesday night, new elections in the late summer of early fall will be the likeliest scenario.

The Israeli news site Walla reported that, in an announcement on Tuesday afternoon, Kulanu’s chairman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, said, “In the event that elections are moved up — the Kulanu party will run with the Likud.”

Kahlon, however, expressed strong opposition to new elections, saying, “I very much hope that the prime minister will succeed in forming a government in the next 30 hours. Otherwise, as finance minister, I can say with perfect confidence — many millions of shekels will be wasted for no reason.”

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“There is no reason for two elections in such a short time,” he said. “We are talking about hundreds of millions that we need for other things.”

The last Knesset elections were held on April 9.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli news outlet Mako reported that the Likud Secretariat had authorized the merger between Likud and Kulanu, handing Kahlon’s party the 5th, 15th, 29th, and 30th places on the Likud list.

Netanyahu claimed that, due to the merger, “we will be at more than 40 mandates” in the next election. Likud won 35 seats in the April vote.

The secretariat also decided that if new elections were called, Netanyahu would remain the Likud candidate for prime minister and there would be no party primaries.

Some high-level Likud officials were reportedly unhappy with the merger, calling it a “classic corrupt deal.”

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