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Meridor Backs Bibi

Dan Meridor: 'I Am Returning To Active Politics In the Likud & Supporting Mr. Netanyahu For Prime Minister'

'Kadima's Failures In Second Lebanon War & Attack On Rule Of Law Disqualify It From Continuing In Office'

Yuval Rabin: 'I Don't Rule Out My Supporting Netanyahu'

Dan Meridor (photo: Jonathan Kliner)

Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu, who is leading the polls for the February 10th election, has received the active support of Dan Meridor who clashed bitterly with Netanyahu in a former government. At a news conference, Meridor declared that despite their past differences Netanyahu was the best candidate to become Israel's next prime minister. In another surprise move, Yuval Rabin the son of the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin of Labor, has said that he did not rule out voting for Netanyahu.

'I have decided to return to active politics in the Likud and support Mr. Netanyahu for prime minister in the upcoming election!' That statement from Dan Meridor, who as finance minister clashed bitterly with Netanyahu when he headed a former cabinet. Meridor resigned in anger and disgust charging that the Likud leader was not fit to serve as prime minister. Today, Meridor said that was all water under the bridge in his view Netanyahu was now the best candidate to serve as Israel's next prime minister. For his part, Netanyahu praised Meridor - he was one of the 'most respected and talented political leaders in Israel who is known for his integrity '. Netanyahu denied that he had made any promises to Meridor of a cabinet position if he forms the next government. The Likud leader reveal that he has been consulted with Meridor on Israeli strategic issues for the past two years.

Benyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Meridor is the latest former Likudnik who has returned to Netanyahu's side after slamming the door on Netanyahu's leadership. Last week, Benny Begin the son of the late and venerated Prime minister Menachem Begin has also returned to support Netanyahu in the upcoming election on February 10th. Both Benny Begin and Dan Meridor are known as Likud 'princes', the sons of leaders in the historic Herut party, the predecessor of the modern day Likud. On this score, there is also a Likud 'princess' Tzipi Livni who now heads the ruling Kadima party.

Likud supermarket of right-wing ideology

Dan Meridor has deviated from Likud ideology of 'the Greater Land of Israel' which includes all of the West Bank - Meridor now argues that the Palestinian population growth will threaten the democratic character of the Jewish state and therefore Israel must take this into account. Benny Begin still stands firmly behind giving up the West Bank. Meridor has also been a proponent of reopening peace negotiations with Syria which implies an Israeli readiness to give up all or most of the Golan Heights. Begin says the goal of Syrian negotiations is 'to see what Damascus is ready to give to Israel for peace'.

On these grounds, it would appear that Meridor would be closer to Kadima's Livni that to Netanyahu and the right-wing Likud. However, Meridor and Livni failed to forge a deal on Meridor's joining Kadima. But how does Netanyahu resolve the opposing views presented by Meridor and Begin? Insiders say a big party like their Likud is bound to have differing views among its members and this is also the case with Kadima and Labor.  

Meridor's rests his case

A lawyer by profession, the mild-mannered Meridor rose to prominence as one of Menachem Begin's most trusted and savvy advisors. After quitting politics more than five years ago, he was also entrusted with heading a bi-partisan study of strategic threats to the Jewish state. How does he now justify his sudden rehabilitation of Netanyahu after castigating the former prime minister in such harsh terms?

Meridor was obviously aware that the media and his rivals, in and and out of the Likud, would vilify him for now hopping on the Bibi band-wagon after it appears heading for victory in the upcoming election. Meridor explains there are two cardinal reasons why Kadima should be kicked out of office. He points to the failure to launch the Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah in July 2006 without proper preparation but no one would listen. And Meridor added: 'If I had been sitting around the cabinet table, I might have prevented that precipitous decision'. Second,  was what he called the 'vicious attack on the rule of law' by Justice Minister Friedman, who was appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In Meridor's view, the entire Kadima party bore responsibility for these 'searing failures' and had lost its moral mandate to lead the country. And in his view, there was no question that security and the threat of a nuclear armed Iran would require tough decisions in the future.

Repeatedly during his news conference, Meridor tried to explain that he was not out of step with the Likud by stressing: 'The Likud is not a right-wing party but the real party of the center in Israeli politics'. Netanyahu and the Likud were ready to make, if possible, with the Palestinians but security must come first. On the basis of his track record as a straight shooter, it appears that after much soul-searching Meridor has reached the decision that he is ready to endure the media roasting he is already taking in the belief that the threats facing Israel are so great that it is his public duty to return to politics, where he might be able to prevent future debacles. 

Meridor's support for Netanyahu is not the only boost for the Likud leader - Yuval Rabin, the son of the late Yitzak Rabin, has now said that he did not rule out backing Netanyahu. 

David Essing

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