Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feel threatened by his longtime rival? Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has hinted that Netanyahu's decision to merge
with Yisrael Beiteinu
was based on his fear of a union in the leftist-centrist bloc under President Shimon Peres'
Katz made the statements, which were originally reported by Makor Rishon's Zeev Kam, during a conference in Or Yehuda earlier this week.
"It's no secret that rumors in the past few months suggested that leftist elements were trying to set up party or faction unions," he said.
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Katz noted that several parties explored "collaborations" in order to prevent the Likud and Netanyahu from taking the next elections.
He then insinuated that one plan sought to place Peres as the leader of the new bloc.
Peres and Netanyahu (Archive photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
One of the rumors, he said, suggested "that a very senior figure, the highest ranking in the country, but not in politics, was said to come despite its age and unify the leftist parties under its leadership. That person was approached."
He further added, "The prime minister told me, and I assume several others as well, that should this happen we would need to allow him to bring forward a proposal to merge factions as well."
Yuval Karni is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent