Jewish Home activist bolts national religious party for new Barak slate

Lamenting bond formed between religious Zionist political leadership and ‘extremist nationalism,’ attorney Sagit Peretz Deri says her camp must ‘reconnect’ with democratic values

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

(From L-R) Ehud Barak, Sagit Peretz Deri, Yifat Biton and Yair Golan on July 2, 2019. (Courtesy)
(From L-R) Ehud Barak, Sagit Peretz Deri, Yifat Biton and Yair Golan on July 2, 2019. (Courtesy)

A Jewish Home activist announced on Tuesday that she was leaving the national religious faction in order to join dovish former prime minister Ehud Barak’s new party ahead of the September elections.

Sagit Peretz Deri, who has worked closely with the right-wing party for nearly a decade, said her decision to enter political life with Barak was spurred by her opposition to links between the national religious community and the extreme right.

“I’ve anguished over the connection that has been created between national religious Jewry and nationalist extremism. I advocate a tolerant, communal Judaism.”

The remarks appeared to take aim, at least partially, at Jewish Home’s decision to merge with the far-right Otzma Yehudit faction to form the United Right-Wing Parties ahead of the previous elections.

The alliance between the national religious party and the slate of self-described disciples of the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane was orchestrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to bolster likely right-wing partners.

Deri is the sixth candidate to join Barak, who announced the establishment of a new, unnamed party last week, vowing to defeat Netanyahu come September.

She is joined by former deputy IDF chief of staff Yair Golan, law professor Yifat Biton, entrepreneur Kobi Richter, former Labor party member Yaya Fink, and author-attorney Noa Rothman, who is the granddaughter of the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin.

As a religious feminist activist, Deri founded the Jewish Home’s women’s caucus and served on the party’s constitution committee. She is an attorney by trade, specializing in real estate, local authority, agricultural, planning and construction law.

The Jewish Home party votes on a pre-election alliance with Otzma Yehudit in Petah Tikva, February 20, 2019. (Yehuda Haim/Flash90)

“We must make firm decisions in order to solidify new infrastructure for a social contract that will enable the continuation of our shared life in our national home,” said Deri in a statement. “These agreements must be based on the bond upon which the state was established as a Jewish and democratic state.”

She called on the national religious camp to “reconnect” with such values.

Barak said his new colleague “represents a self-confident Judaism that is intrinsically connected to the Zionist idea, to [the Talmudic sage] Hillel’s moderation and to responsibility for preserving the Jewish and democratic character of the state.”

Announcing the formation of his party last week, Barak, 77, sent shudders through the ranks of both the ailing Labor party and the centrist Blue and White. Both are likely to see voters defecting to the former prime minister and IDF general who declared himself the only person capable of unseating Netanyahu.

Barak is also reportedly in talks with Emilie Moatti regarding the possibility of the Labor activist joining his slate as well — which would be an additional blow to the venerable party that was holding its leadership primaries on Tuesday.

The members of the former prime minister’s new party were slated to hold a press conference later Tuesday afternoon in Tel Aviv.

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