JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main coalition partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, plan to merge their right-wing parties ahead of Israel's January 22 election, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.
"The fact they reached agreement should be welcomed by all of us," Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, a stalwart from Netanyahu's Likud party, told Israel's Channel Two television. "There will be a really clearly defined nationalist, rightist camp here."
Netanyahu and Lieberman, who heads the ultranationalist Israel Beiteinu ("Israel is Our Home") party, scheduled a joint press conference for 8.00 pm (1800 GMT).
According to Channel Two, the new party would be called Likud Beiteinu - "The Likud is Our Home". Erdan said the merger would be subject to the approval of the Likud central committee.
Such a move, if confirmed, would further strengthen Netanyahu's hand ahead of the election, with the newlook party capable of winning around double the number of seats of its nearest rival at the forthcoming vote.
However, the merger might raise eyebrows abroad. Lieberman has been a long-standing and outspoken critic of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, calling earlier this year for the ousting of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.