Yossi Verter
Haaretz (Opinion)
December 6, 2012 - 1:00am

One day after the surprising ouster of Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon from Yisrael Beiteinu's next Knesset slate, a few details that appear to explain the move leaked out. Highly-placed sources in Yisrael Beiteinu said that party chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman suspects Ayalon of an unforgivable sin - serial leaks to diplomatic reporters.

Time after time over the last few years, the sources said, Lieberman warned his deputy to zip his lip, but the latter never learned. The problem was so severe that Lieberman even began barring Ayalon from accessing classified Foreign Ministry material, they said. Later, Lieberman also began leaving him out of the loop on party issues.

"Ayalon was in love with himself," one source said. "He went crazy. He had to see himself in the media every day. He turned into a compulsive leaker. Lieberman couldn't stand this. He views leaks as the root of all evil. More than once this term, he has convened his faction and told his 14 MKs, 'I'm not prepared to tolerate a situation in which secrets can't be kept. Our meetings haven't even ended when I'm already hearing reports in the media about what was said here. I want to tell you, I don't forget. In the end, I'll settle accounts."

Ayalon, incidentally, said in media interviews Wednesday that he has no clue why Lieberman left him off the slate.

The sources also denied that Lieberman informed Ayalon of the decision only an hour before convening his party's central committee to approve the slate. He gave his deputy 24 hours' notice, they said.

In a poll published by Channel 10 television Wednesday night, the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu slate - whose component parts will be merged into a final list Thursday- dropped a bit compared to the last poll, from 39 seats to 37. Nevertheless, the Likud-right-religious bloc maintained a comfortable majority of 67 seats, compared to 53 for the center-left bloc. The latter includes 11 seats for the Arab parties.

Labor is still set to be the second largest party, with 20 seats. Tzipi Livni's new Hatnuah party won nine seats in the poll, still below the double-digit level she seeks. But Livni has clearly done considerable damage to Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party: It won only seven seats in the poll.

Both Livni and Lapid, however, were outpolled by the joint slate run by two religious rightist parties, Habayit Hayehudi and National Union: It won 11 seats.

The poll showed Kadima winning just enough votes to make it into the Knesset with two seats. But the party received a further blow on Wednesday when two of its most senior figures announced their retirement from political life: Dalia Itzik, after 20 years in the Knesset that included stints as a minister, Knesset speaker and acting president, and Roni Bar-On, whose 10 years in the Knesset included a term as finance minister. Another former Kadima minister, MK Jacob Edery, announced his retirement as well.

All three had waited until Wednesday in hopes that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would return to take over the leadership of the party from incumbent chairman Shaul Mofaz. But once they realized Olmert wasn't coming back, they saw no point in staying aboard the sinking ship.


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