New Right, National Union agree on joint run, call for Jewish Home to join them
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New Right, National Union agree on joint run, call for Jewish Home to join them

Parties say ‘the door remains open’ to Rafi Peretz’s faction, which fumes that the unity deal will lead to ‘the shattering of religious Zionism’

From left to right: Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich at a campaign event in the West Bank settlement of Elkana on August 21, 2019. (Ben Dori/Flash90)
From left to right: Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich at a campaign event in the West Bank settlement of Elkana on August 21, 2019. (Ben Dori/Flash90)

The New Right and National Union parties announced Tuesday that they will run together together in the upcoming national elections, calling on fellow national-religious faction Jewish Home to also enter their joint slate.

The announcement came as merger talks between National Union and Jewish Home broke down after they were close to signing an agreement. It also came a day after New Right pledged to go it alone in the March 2 elections.

National Union called on Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz to team up with them and said “the door remained open” to his party.

“We took a significant and big step this morning and with the help of God we’ll complete a full union with Jewish Home in the coming hours,” National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich said in a joint statement from the parties.

New Right leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked also called for Peretz’s Jewish Home to join them.

“We’ve led the way to a great union in the ideological right and religious Zionism,” Bennett said.

Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz, right, with Itamar Ben Gvir, left, of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party on Friday, December 20, 2019. (Courtesy)

The United Jewish Home, which consists of Jewish Home and the far-right Otzma Yehudit, reacted angrily to the New Right-National Union unity deal.

“The true face of Bezalel Smotrich and Naftali Bennett has been exposed — the shattering of religious Zionism,” the party said in a statement.

It accused New Right and National Union of having “hurt the entire right-wing camp,” and singled out Smotrich for criticism.

“Suddenly open primaries, democratic competition or merging parties don’t interest Bezalel, only the warm seat in the New Right,” the United Jewish Home said.

The United Jewish Home said it would soon announce its next moves. Parties have until midnight Wednesday to finalize their electoral lists.

In a separate statement, Otzma Yehudit claimed Smotrich blew up his party’s talks with Jewish Home over the latter’s refusal to guarantee the fourth spot on the joint list to a National Union MK instead of the fifth.

The deal places Peretz in a considerable dilemma as Bennett is believed to be only willing to take in Jewish Home but not Otzma Yehudit. Staying with the far-right party risks stranding Jewish Home below the electoral threshold, while deserting Otzma Yehudit could damage Peretz’s credibility.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz attends a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, December 23, 2019. (Flash90)

National Union and Jewish Home were on the verge of signing a unity deal, but Smotrich instructed his negotiators to leave the talks after accusing Jewish Home of reneging on an agreement to dissolve their respective central committees and form a single internal body that would make future decisions for the party.

Jewish Home home denied having made any walk-backs and said it remained committed to closing a deal.

Bennett vowed Monday he would run independently in the upcoming election and met with Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin late Monday night in an effort to convince him to join the New Right.

Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Kfar Hamacabiah in Ramat Gan announcing Zehut’s withdrawal from the September elections, on August 29, 2019. (Flash90)

Feiglin turned down the offer, leading Bennett to reconsider the possibility of merging with Smotrich, an official with knowledge of the negotiations told The Times of Israel.

Zehut, which combines far-right nationalism and small-government libertarianism, ran in elections last April but failed to clear the minimum electoral threshold.

Bennett had appeared to put to bed the possibility of a broad alliance of national religious parties to the right of Likud, announcing Monday that New Right would run as an “ideological and liberal right-wing” party in the March elections.

Smotrich last year spoke out in favor of an Israel governed by religious law and that liberal values infringe on the rights of religious Israelis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent weeks encouraged New Right, Jewish Home, National Union and Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit to all run on a united slate of right-wing, national religious parties in order to avoid a scenario in which one or more of the small right-wing parties fail to cross the electoral threshold.

Bennett, by contrast, had maintained that the right-wing bloc was large enough to support two national religious parties to the right of Netanyahu’s Likud — one that is slightly more moderate on social issues and campaigns on the notion of religious-secular partnership as the New Right has done, and another that is more expressly religious and more hardline on social issues.

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