Israel has been a leader among Western countries because of the fundamental partnership between Yisrael Beytenu and Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday at a press conference with Russian media in Jerusalem.
Commenting on the union of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu said, "the connection with [Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman goes back years. We share the same beliefs in the way we deal with challenges."
He added, "Israel has been a leader among Western countries, including in economic terms. How did we manage to do this? Because there was a fundamental partnership between Yisrael Beytenu and Likud. This is the reason that we decided to officially team up now. In terms of security and the economy and the advancement of other reforms — this necessitates a union of parties.
"We are talking about collaboration on the highest level. We are combining our forces together to give security and hope based on strength and experience, and this union is a winning formula," the prime minister said.
Lieberman echoed the prime minister's comments, saying, "Without our agreement to share the premiership, all of the government's potential achievements could not happen. We represent more Knesset members and ministers from the former USSR. We have proven ourselves.
"The common denominator between us and the Likud is based on Jabotinsky's legacy. In the leftist camp, there is no common denominator. What do Tzipi Livni and Yachimovich have in common?" Lieberman said.
The press conference comes after Likud and Yisrael Beytenu denied on Sunday that they had intended to break up their merger immediately following the elections.
The statement was made in response to an article in the Haaretz newspaper on Sunday claiming that the union of Netanyahu's and Lieberman's parties will only be temporary, and that they intend to split after the Jan. 22 elections.
"In the agreement that was signed between Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, as was submitted to the Central Election Committee, it was written that the decision regarding the unification of the factions would take place a month after the elections," a Likud statement said. "Likud and Yisrael Beytenu are running for the Knesset together, and will cooperate closely and fully during their time in government; no union will break apart."
Haaretz reported that they questioned Lieberman through a party spokesman. He apparently said that the two parties did not plan on acting jointly or sitting together in the new Knesset, and that each party's representatives would pledge allegiance only to their respective parties. This caveat was part and parcel of the original joint ticket agreement from just over a month ago, the representative said.
Lieberman allegedly emphasized that the unification of the two parties was for election purposes only, and that the final status of the joint ticket would be determined a month after the elections.
One Likud cabinet minister who spoke to Haaretz under condition of anonymity said that Lieberman had pledged to support Netanyahu as prime minister for the entire duration of the next Knesset.