Netanyahu pushes off Putin meeting to contend with growing threat from left

Netanyahu struck a preliminary election deal with two religious-nationalist parties in a bid to unify his voting bloc ahead of April elections.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party announced Wednesday it would reserve the 28th spot on its parliamentary list for the Jewish Home party and grant it two Cabinet ministries in a future government if it merges with the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party.

Otzma Yehudit is religious-nationalist party that is viewed as one of the most right-wing factions in Israel.

Recent polls project Likud winning about 30 of parliament’s 120 seats, while the prospects for Jewish Home and Otzma Yehudit remained unclear prior to their decision to merge in the upcoming election, a move intended to decrease the chances that Jewish Home and Otzma Yehudit would fail to garner enough votes to meet the minimum threshold for entering the Knesset.

In addition to voting to merge with Otzma Yehudit, the Jewish Home central committee also approved ongoing negotiations with Yachad chairman Eli Yishai, Times of Israel reported.

Meanwhile, an Israeli government official confirmed that a planned meeting in Moscow between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been postponed.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity Wednesday because of the sensitivity of the matter, says the meeting was delayed in mutual agreement. The two will have a telephone call Thursday and schedule a new meeting soon.

Netanyahu and Putin have been recently holding regular consultations to coordinate operations in war-torn Syria. The meeting was to be the first since a Russian plane was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire attempting to attack  -Israeli jets.

Israeli media reported that the delay is due to Netanyahu’s domestic political concerns, saying he wants to oversee mergers in his camp before a Thursday night deadline to submit party lists for the upcoming April election.