New Right party leader Naftali Bennett held late-night talks Saturday night with his former deputy Ayelet Shaked ahead of a likely decision by her on her future political home.
Bennett is trying to woo Shaked back to New Right, which failed to reach the Knesset in April elections, and has said he would be willing to let her take the reins of the party.
Shaked, a popular former justice minister, is thought to be a potential leader of a right-wing slate, including the Union of Right-Wing Parties. Polls show a right-wing list led by Shaked faring better at the polls than one led by current Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz.
Sources close to Bennett and Shaked described the meeting ahead of time as “decisive,” in Hebrew media reports. However, the two failed to come to any agreement, Army Radio reported.
Parties have until the end of July to officially register their slates ahead of the September 17 election, and leaders of various factions on the right and left have been jockeying for positions and negotiating possible mergers in the lead-up to the deadline.
Bennett and Shaked left their spots as leader and No. 2 of Jewish Home late last year to form the New Right party, but the faction fell several thousand votes short of crossing the threshold to enter the Knesset in April.
Shaked is thought to be interested in leading a wide constellation of right-wing parties but Bennett, who chafed under the heavy rabbinical influence exerted on Jewish Home, wants to keep New Right as a distinct and more secular right wing faction.
“I prefer if we can create a liberal right-wing bloc with one leader, and have another leader at the head of another party that is a religious Hardal [ultra-Orthodox-nationalist] which is the Union of Right-Wing Parties,” Bennett told Channel 12 news in an interview that aired Saturday. “That seems more logical, but we need to see, there is another 10 days.”
Shaked has also held meetings with Peretz, who led the URWP slate made up of Jewish Home, National Union and Oztma Yehudit in the April election.
Peretz has resisted giving up leadership of the slate. According to Walla news, he told Shaked there was a “glass ceiling” that would prevent her from leading the party.
However, a URWP source told the Ynet news site that Shaked had yet to make her intentions clear to the party, which could be open to being led by her.
“She has to say she’s interested. At this point she still hasn’t said if she wants to run with us in one big party, or if she will run with a different party,” the source said.
National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich tweeted that Bennett and Shaked should not “repeat past mistakes” by splitting the right-wing vote.
“If they make the same irresponsible mistake, they will be held responsible for the result. This time they will not be forgiven for bringing down a right-wing government because of personal interests,” he tweeted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called September’s election after failing to find enough willing partners to form a right-wing government following the April election. Analysts say that political calculus may have changed had New Right entered the Knesset or not siphoned votes away from URWP.