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Liberals Vote to Merge with Herut Gradually After Bitter Long Debate

The Liberal Party voted Friday to merge with Herut, but according to a formula proposed by Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai which was bitterly opposed by some of his ranking Liberal Party colleagues.

The 217-187 vote taken early Friday morning after a grueling 18-hour debate was for gradual merger of the two components of Likud to be implemented over a considerable period of time. It represented a significant victory for Modai over his principal rivals for party leadership — Avraham Sharir, Gideon Patt and Moshe Nissim, the ministers of tourism, science and justice respectively.

They had demanded a much swifter merger of the Liberals with their larger partner and maintained that Modai’s proposal would never to accepted by Herut. The battle that preceded the vote at the Kfar Hamacabiah hall in Tel Aviv was punctuated by verbal violence, particularly between Modai and Sharir, which both embarrassed and amused the several hundred delegates attending a specially convened party convention.

It demonstrated the lack of unity in Liberal Party ranks, underlined forcefully by the unexpectedly strong showing of those Liberals opposed to merger. The dissidents, headed by Jewish Agency chairman Leon Dulzin and Mayor Shlomo Lehat of Tel Aviv, calling themselves Liberal Loyalists, made it clear they would secede from the party should it unite with Herut.

The two parties aligned in Likud have hitherto maintained their individual identities while presenting a single list to the voters in Knesset elections.

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