The far-right National Union and Jewish Home parties signed an agreement on Thursday to join forces ahead of January 22 national elections.
The two parties managed seven MKs in the last Knesset, though Jewish Home (3) joined the ruling coalition and National Union (4) stayed in the opposition.
The move is not without opposition. MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari, both from National Union, objected to the arrangement and didn’t attend the event marking the merger in Jerusalem.
The parties’ political goals overlap significantly — notably the prevention of a Palestinian state, preferably by annexing all or part of the West Bank.
Jewish Home is the successor to the right-wing National Religious Party, known in Hebrew as Mafdal. The party’s current chairman, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, is being challenged for the leadership by veteran MK and ex-minister Zevulun Orlev and Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and high-tech millionaire (but political greenhorn) Naftali Bennett. For the first time in the party’s history, the chairman and the Knesset list will be determined by the party members through elections and primaries similar to the larger Likud, Labor, and Kadima parties.
Even further to the right, the National Union is headed by Yaakov Katz and is a consortium of various ultra-nationalist factions.
In the 18th Knesset, MKs from the National Union occasionally proposed laws that would de facto declare Israeli sovereignty over the territories. These never passed but often garnered enough support to embarrass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who professes to believe in a two-state solution.