It was announced this weekend that the two main parties of the Israeli Right, the Likud and Israel Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) have formed a joint list to run in the Israeli election on January 22, 2013. The new list is named Likud Beitenu (Likud is Our Home). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will head the list and Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman will be the number two man on the list and will have his pick of ministries after the coalition is formed: foreign minister, defense minister, or finance minister. Last night the Likud by a large majority approved the merger, without Netanyahu having revealed the number of seats that each party would receive on the joint list. To see Netanyahu's acceptance speech (in Hebrew) go here.
The immediate reaction on the Center-Left was one of shock. Everyone in Israel was pretty much resigned to Netanyahu continuing as prime minister after the election, but the thought that the merger might become permanent and leave Lieberman as Netanyahu's successor as the new party leader has people in shock. Many in Israel claim that Lieberman's role model is not any of the figures on the secular Right such as Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Menahem Begin, or Yitzhak Shamir but rather Vladimir Putin, the semi-democratic and semi-authoritarian leader of Russia. Leiberman immigrated to Israel from Moldova--Soviet Romania--in 1978 at age 20. After serving in the army, he worked as a bouncer and entered politics as an aide to Netanyahu during the latter's first term as prime minister. He then left the Likud to found his own party of Russian immigrants to compete with Natan Sharansky's Israel B'Aliya (Israel on the Rise/Israel in Immigration) party. Lieberman has taken his party through a series of mergers and splits on the Right as he searched for a winning formula. This formula was eventually to attack Israel's Arab minority as disloyal and demand a loyalty oath.