Cabinet minister Naftali Bennett is planning a political comeback and is working to persuade several small right-wing parties, including the far-right Otzma Yehudit, to run on a joint ticket in the September 17 elections, according to a report on Friday.
Bennett’s New Right party failed to make it into the 21st Knesset in the April 9 elections, falling just under the electoral threshold. With the dissolution of the parliament on Wednesday, the outgoing education minister has decided he will run again in the fall elections, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported.
Bennett has already met with Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin — whose nationalist, pro-marijuana legalization, quasi-libertarian party also failed to receive the minimum amount of votes to enter the Knesset — and will soon sit down with the Union of Right Wing Parties’ Rafi Peretz and Betzalel Smotrich to discuss a merger of all the parties, to be called the United Right Front, according to the report.
Bennett is also sending out signals to woo the far-right Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben Gvir into the fold, according to Yedioth, despite his past opposition to the candidate over his political views.
In the last election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brokered a deal that saw the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit join the Jewish Home and National Union, to run on the same electoral slate — URWP — in a move that drew disgust at home and among Jewish communities abroad, particularly in the United States.
Otzma Yehudit leader Michael Ben Ari was also running until he was disqualified by the Supreme Court for statements it ruled were incitement to racism.
The report on Friday came as Likud members pressed Netanyahu to place Bennett’s popular co-leader of the New Right, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, on the Likud list.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Shaked, who along with Bennett left the Jewish Home party to form the New Right ahead of the previous election, would part ways with her longtime political partner.
Elections were called Wednesday after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition over disagreements with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.
The prime minister will seek to replicate or increase his success in the April elections — in which the Likud and its rival Blue and White both received 35 seats — but would require a bolstered right-wing to form a government, and could face the same political deadlock if he is tasked with the premiership after the next national vote.
AFP contributed to this report.