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Yisrael Beytenu Making Serious Inroads in Local Government

Published on: July 9, 2012

Published in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot on 9.07.2012

by Yuval Karni and Tzvika Brot

Ivet’s Friends:

Between visits to the USA and Italy, Avigdor Liberman is laying the groundwork in towns such as Arad and Bnei Ayish.  The goal: to get as many Yisrael Beytenu municipal heads (mayors) as possible. “You have to conquer the field, local government to become the prime minster.”

The head of Yisrael Beytenu, Minister Avigdor Liberman frequently visits world capitals in his capacity as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, he invests no less in visits to Israeli towns such as Arad, Bnei Ayish and Dimona.  The goal: to wrest local governments from the hands of traditional parties – mainly Likud and Labor – and to transfer as many local governments to Yisrael Beytenu politicians.

“You have to conquer the field, local government, the leaders of towns and cities to become the prime minster,” says one local  leader. “Liberman identified potential and decided to invest in local government,” he added.

A senior member of the political system said, “The Minister of Foreign Affairs is running a full campaign for control of local governments because he knows that in the past this was a major source of Likud’s strength.”

Therefore, just after returning from Italy and before jumping on a plane to New York, Liberman found time to visit a small regional council in the Galil,  take a tour of settlements in Lachish, and take his party’s ministers to Arad in a show of support to its mayor – a member of Yisrael Beytenu.

So far, this strategy is working. Recently some municipality heads from the Maale Yosef municipality in the Western Galilee, Lachish, Gesher and Gan Raveh have declared that they will join the ranks of Yisrael Beytenu municiple heads, which already include: Tali Feloskov in Arad, Meir Cohen in Dimona, the head of the Bnei Ayish municipality, Mark Basin, and Pini Badash in Omer.

All these new members have a one-on-one meeting with Avigdor Liberman at his office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Liberman has even been known to visit some municipal heads in their own homes.

Mayor of Maale Yosef, Avi Krampa, was a major Labor party activist until 2005.  He then joined the Kadima party.  He has now moved over to Yisrael Beytenu.  “I was a Labor party member for decades and I was let down by them.  I joined Kadima and was let down even more.  I think that Yisrael Beytenu is the right party for me idealogically,” says Krampa.

He admits that he had never met Liberman before being invited to the Foreign Minister’s office in Jerusalem.  Krampa adds, “I told Liberman one thing:  I like the way he runs his party.  There are no primaries, no institutions – but there is a leader.  Primaries in the big parties only encourage superficiality and anarchism.”

But Yisrael Beytenu is a party of one man.  He decides everything.

“It is a party of many people but with one leader and, ultimately, he decides everything.  I know the ministers who came to visit me in my municipality: Aharonovitch, Misezhnikov,” adds Krampa.

Danny Morvia, head of the Lachish Municipality, also has a history of membership to another political party.

“I had been a member of Likud for decades but decided to switch to Yisrael Beytenu because Liberman is a reliable leader.  For him, his word is his word.  He always consults his friends and decides only afterwards. For example, he asked my opinion on the Tal Law and the Ulpana Neighborhood.  He is out there in the field.  And the people in the field know that among all the leaders out there, Liberman is the only one who is reliable,” says Morvia.

Won’t you miss the power you had in the Likud Central Committee?

“The Likud Central Committee is one big bluff.  Many Likud party members don’t even vote Likud.  In contrast, Yisrael Beytenu is a properly run party.  I believe that the municipal heads will succeed in drawing a lot of new support for Yisrael Beytenu.  It will be easy because people are looking for an alternative to Netanyahu, and there is no one but Liberman who fits the bill.”

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