Bennett says right-wing union would be for election only

New Right’s No. 2 says proposed joint slate with other national-religious factions would form ‘technical bloc’ to help ensure all parties clear electoral threshold

New Right No. 2 Naftali Bennett speaks during a press conference in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
New Right No. 2 Naftali Bennett speaks during a press conference in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The New Right’s No. 2, Naftali Bennett, on Sunday said the right-wing alliance he was attempting to negotiate with other national-religious factions would be a “technical bloc” solely for the purposes of the upcoming elections and would part ways after entering the Knesset.

The New Right has been pushing for a tie-up with the Union of Right-Wing Parties and others ahead of the September 17 election in a bid to prevent votes being split and possibly lost among the various right-wing factions.

With less than a week before the deadline to submit party rosters, Bennett laid out his reasoning in a Facebook livestream on Sunday, ahead of a meeting with URWP leader Rafi Peretz.

Bennett, who said he was tasked by party leader Ayelet Shaked to lead the negotiations, went on to say that he wanted the loose coalition to include Moshe Feiglin’s quasi-libertarian Zehut party and the extremist Otzma Yehudit, which ran as a part of URWP in April’s elections.

“We decided to unite everyone, all the parties on the right, including Feiglin, to bring them under one umbrella,” Bennett said.

New Right chairwoman Ayelet Shaked speaks to reporters in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Bennett said last week’s talks with URWP leader Peretz were held up by “delays on their side,” but said he was scheduled to meet Peretz later on Sunday evening to resume the negotiations.

The two parties are at odds over New Right’s demand that party chief Ayelet Shaked lead the joint slate.

Shaked, who earlier this week took the reins of the New Right, has been pushing for the URWP to merge with her party for a joint Knesset run in order to avoid the factions splitting the right-wing bloc and risking one of them not clearing the electoral threshold. In April’s election, New Right fell about a thousand votes short of entering the Knesset. The URWP won five seats.

Peretz is reportedly under pressure from within the national-religious community to give up his leadership position and let the secular Shaked lead an alliance, an arrangement he opposes as all the other member parties are religious movements.

After Peretz and Shaked discussed the possible merger last week, both their parties released statements insisting they were committed to reaching a deal, but accused the other side of squandering the chances of a merger by making “unjustified demands.”

On Thursday, Shaked backed off one demand, that New Right be given every second slot on a united right-wing slate.

Outgoing Education Minister Naftali Bennett (L) speaks with newly appointed Education minister Rafi Peretz during a ceremony in Jerusalem on June 26, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Establishing a right-wing bloc is an urgent matter, a kind of large republican party with a broad range of views to the right of Likud,” Shaked said to the press outside her home in Tel Aviv.

She added that she was also hoping to forge alliances with Otzma Yehudit and Zehut.

Otzma Yehudit joined the URWP for the April vote but has since said it was breaking its partnership with URWP’s Jewish Home sub-faction in a dispute over the party slate.

Three polls published on Thursday evening gave New Right nine to 11 Knesset seats, compared with just four for URWP.

On Saturday, Channel 12 news reported that Peretz will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also pushing the merger to prevent any right-wing party from falling below the electoral threshold.

Otzma Yehudit member Itamar Ben Gvir told The Times of Israel on Thursday  that Netanyahu was doing “everything in his power” to ensure the far-right party was included in any merger with the URWP. Ben Gvir called on the other right-wing party heads to act with the same level of “responsibility.”

But the prime minister has also been reported to be working against the possibility of Shaked leading the national-religious alliance.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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