Eli Yishai’s Yachad party drops out of election race, boosting right
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Eli Yishai’s Yachad party drops out of election race, boosting right

Former Shas minister endorses United Torah Judaism; Union of Right-Wing Parties candidate hails Yishai’s ‘responsible step,’ courts his base

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Leader of the Yachad political party Eli Yishai speaks at the campaign opening event in Bnei Brak, March 12, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Leader of the Yachad political party Eli Yishai speaks at the campaign opening event in Bnei Brak, March 12, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Former minister Eli Yishai has withdrawn his hard-right Yachad party from the election race two weeks before the vote, in a boost for other small right-wing parties.

Yishai announced on Wednesday he would be supporting the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party in the April 9 elections.

Yachad failed to clear the threshold and enter the Knesset in the 2015 elections. The party was polling below the 3.25 percent electoral threshold in recent opinion surveys conducted by Israel’s television networks and was frequently left off the polls altogether.

The endorsement by Yishai, a former leader of the Shas party, for UTJ comes amid a years-long feud with his previous party’s current chairman, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri. Polls have also indicated Shas is in danger of falling beneath the electoral threshold.

While horse-race polls are an almost daily occurrence in Israel in the weeks leading up to elections and are not seen as overly reliable, taken together, the surveys can often serve as a general gauge of the political climate and where the vote may be headed.

According to surveys in recent months, numerous right-wing political parties have been cast as hovering around the electoral threshold, including Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, Gesher, Kulanu, the Union of Right-Wing Parties, Zehut, and The New Right, though the margin of error of the respective surveys makes it too close to call. Also imperiled by the 3.25% threshold are the left-wing Meretz and Ra’am-Balad, the surveys suggested.

Yishai’s announcement was hailed by URWP’s Betzalel Smotrich, who was hoping his party would benefit from Yishai’s exit from the race due to their similar nationalist-religious platforms.

“We welcome Eli Yishai’s responsible step to drop his candidacy and prevent the loss of votes in the right-wing camp,” tweeted Smotrich. “We urge Yachad voters to come home! Join us and together we will protect the people of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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