Journalist Yifat Erlich joins Jewish Home party
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Journalist Yifat Erlich joins Jewish Home party

Writer placed 3rd on religious right-wing faction’s slate; MK Moti Yogev accuses former leader Naftali Bennett of ‘raping’ the party, apologizes later

Head of the Jewish Home Party Rabbi Rafi Peretz with new party member Yifat Erlich in Tel Aviv, February 13, 2019. (Flash90)
Head of the Jewish Home Party Rabbi Rafi Peretz with new party member Yifat Erlich in Tel Aviv, February 13, 2019. (Flash90)

The Jewish Home party on Wednesday announced that author and investigative journalist Yifat Erlich will be joining its slate for the upcoming Knesset elections.

Erlich will be placed in the third slot on the hawkish religious party’s slate, which had been reserved for a woman. The other candidates for the slot were legal activist Nitzana Darshan-Leitner and Idit Silman.

“Yifat is a significant power boost for the Jewish Home and represents the religious and traditional Zionism’s diverse, lively, principled and knowledgeable young generation,” the party’s 17-member executive board, which selected Erlich, said in a statement.

Erlich is expected to be bumped down the slate if and when Jewish Home reaches an agreement to join forces with the National Union party, but the Jewish Home board called for her not to ultimately be placed lower than 4th.

“A significant and leading female voice is vital to the Jewish Home’s success,” it said.

Jewish Home is one of four religious right-wing parties that are said to be close to agreeing on a united slate for the upcoming elections.

(L) Jewish Home chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz speaks at the party’s convention in Ramat Gan on February 4, 2019. (R) Bezalel Smotrich celebrates after being elected chairman of the National Union faction, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, on January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/FLash90)

“The news is that we will go together,” National Union party head Bezalel Smotrich declared Tuesday at the annual Besheva right-wing media group conference in Jerusalem. “The news is that we are making every effort.”

He said a four-way agreement would be achieved between his faction and its erstwhile partner Jewish Home; Otzma Yehudit, headed by far-right figures associated with the banned Kach movement; and Yachad, headed by one-time Shas leader Eli Yishai.

The deal would be sealed in the coming hours or days, he said.

The move to join forces would bolster the factions’ chances of entering the Knesset. Apart, none of them are projected to cross the 3.25 percent electoral threshold.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing the factions to unite in order to have another potential coalition partner on the right should he be tasked with forming a government after the April 9 vote.

Education Nafatli Bennett, left, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked deliver a statement during a press conference in the Knesset, on November 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Jewish Home suffered a blow in December, when party head Naftali Bennett, who is education minister, left the flagship religious Zionist party, taking with him the party’s number two, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Together they jointly founded the New Right party, leaving Jewish Home in heavy debt.

MK Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Wednesday morning, Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev accused Bennett of “raping” the party telling Army Radio that “he abandoned religious Zionism’s political home.”

“Bennett’s disrespect in the last six years skyrocketed,” Yogev charged. “He left us with a debt of more than NIS 11 million for this rape.”

New Right member Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who also left Jewish Home along with Bennett and Shaked, demanded that Yogev apologize for the remark.

“Moti Yogev has forgotten that without Naftali and Ayelet he probably wouldn’t have been elected as a Knesset member in the first place,” she said. “Before that, Jewish Home had only three seats. It is Yogev who has pulled a fast one on Shaked and Bennett.”

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli from the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party attends a party meeting at the Knesset. October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Yogev subsequently apologized, conceding that “the term ‘rape’ was inappropriate and I apologize for it.”

Erlich, 41, a mother of five, lives in the West Bank settlement of Ofra after having previously lived in the Amona outpost, which was partially demolished in 2006.

She has been a journalist since 2003, starting out in the short-lived religious Techelet TV channel and later working for many years in the Makor Rishon newspaper and later on Channel 2 as an investigative reporter. Since 2014 she has been writing for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

Over the years, she has conducted many high-profile investigations centering around the religious and ultra-Orthodox communities and focusing on sensitive topics like abortions, religious cults, corruption in religious courts and child molestation.

Erlich published two books in 2017, one telling the life story of terror victim Dafna Meir, and the other a novel about a love affair between a settler and a Karaite woman.

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