The Knesset House Committee on Sunday gave formal approval for the leaders of the Jewish Home faction to split and form the “New Right” party (HaYemin HeHadash), and discovered in the process that plans for the new list may have been in the works since August.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced their planned split on Saturday night, surprising even long-time colleagues in the Jewish Home party who said they had not had any inkling of the two ministers’ preparations to leave the party they led.
In the House Committee meeting, however, lawmakers learned that those plans may have been months in the making.
A Knesset faction must, by law, represent at least one political party registered in the Justice Ministry’s Parties Registrar. (Some, like Zionist Union, the Arab Joint List, or in previous years Likud, Meretz and many others, represent multiple registered parties running together for parliament.)
It is likely that Bennett and Shaked did not want to register a new party in their own names in order to avoid giving away their plans before they could announce them.
The new Knesset faction, dubbed “New Right,” is thus a representative in parliament of a 12-year-old party called “Tzalash,” which a Bennett confidant, attorney Amichai Weinberger, purchased from its original owner four months ago, in August. The owner ceded control in exchange for Weinberger paying the defunct party’s annual registration fees.
“Tzalash” is the Hebrew acronym for a military commendation medal, and is listed in the party’s paperwork as an acronym for “Zionism, Liberalism, Equality.”
It was formed in 2006 by former Shinui-party infrastructure and energy minister Yosef Paritzky, and was an avowedly secular, anti-religious party that mounted an unsuccessful run in that year’s election.
The Sunday House Committee meeting to approve New Right’s split from Jewish Home was brief. The split was approved unanimously, but only after Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon informed the committee members, some of whom are unhappy about the potential electoral consequences of the new party’s establishment, that they had no legal basis to deny the division.
Bennett and Shaked announced they were quitting Jewish Home on Saturday night and forming a party founded on “full partnership” between Orthodox and secular Israelis to contest April’s elections.
The two made the announcement at a press conference in Tel Aviv, saying that the Orthodox Bennett and the secular Shaked would serve as the co-leaders of the new party.
Explaining the decision, the ministers said that while Jewish Home had become a “significant force” in government over the past six years, their power had waned, with Bennett saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt religious Zionists were “in his pocket.”
The two said they sought to build a party which would achieve what Jewish Home couldn’t — “true partnership between secular and religious [Israelis].”
The New Right, Shaked said, would be a “full and equal partnership” between the secular and the Orthodox.
“We’ll regain Knesset seats that have slipped from the Likud to the left — to parties that claim to be right wing but are in fact left,” she said. “The party will strengthen the right.”
“I want to be very very clear,” Bennett said. “The New Right party is right-wing, no buts and no sort-ofs. In favor of the Land of Israel without compromise, against a Palestinian state, period.”
Said Bennett: “If there had been a party like this 13 years ago, the disengagement [from the Gaza Strip] would not have happened.”