Pleading for right-wing unity, Shaked backs off key demand in merger talks

Stressing urgency as time to form an alliance runs out, New Right Party leader advises ‘our friends to wake up’

Ayelet Shaked, former justice minister and head of the New Right party, speaks during a press conference outside her home in Tel Aviv on July 25, 2019. (Avshalom Shoshoni/Flash90)
Ayelet Shaked, former justice minister and head of the New Right party, speaks during a press conference outside her home in Tel Aviv on July 25, 2019. (Avshalom Shoshoni/Flash90)

New Right Party leader Ayelet Shaked backed off a demand that her party be given every second slot on a united right-wing slate, urging Jewish Home and other factions to rally behind her.

“Unity on the right is the order of the day. Establishing a right bloc is an urgent matter, a kind of large republican party with a broad range of views to the right of Likud,” Shaked said to the press outside her home in Tel Aviv.

The plea came with a week remaining before parties must register their electoral slates ahead of September’s Knesset vote.

Shaked, who earlier this week took the reins of the New Right party, has been pushing for the Union of Right-Wing Parties — made up of Jewish Home and National Union — to merge with her party for a joint Knesset run in order to avoid the factions splitting the right-wing bloc and risking one of the factions not clearing the electoral threshold.

“The public won’t forgive those who don’t allow such unity,” Shaked said.

Shaked has demanded that she lead the slate, but Education Minister Rafi Peretz of the Jewish Home party has so far refused to vacate his seat.

The New Right leader said she was giving up on the party’s demand that a slate be built by staggering slots, with her faction getting all odd-numbered seats and URWP getting the rest.

Shaked claimed that polls showed her faction winning as many as eight seats compared to only four for URWP.

New Right chairwoman Ayelet Shaked (L) and party No 2. Naftali Bennett speak to reporters in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

In April’s election, New Right fell several thousand votes short of entering the Knesset, despite polls showing it getting as many as six seats. URWP won five seats.

“They need to wake up,” she said. “The ball is now with the Union of Right-Wing Parties.”

She added that she was also hoping to forge alliances with the far-right Otzma Yehudit and the quasi-libertarian Zehut parties.

Otzma Yehudit joined the URWP for the April vote but has since said it was breaking its partnership with Jewish Home in a dispute over who should fill the five seats the URWP won. On Thursday, Otzma leader Itamar ben-Gvir canceled a planned meeting with Peretz.

The comments came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly offered URWP two ministerial posts in a possible future government if it joins with Otzma Yehudit and reject Shaked.

Speaking at a religious Zionist conference in Kfar Maccabia, Peretz also called for right-wing unity, but did not say with whom.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz, chairman of the Union of Right Wing Parties, speaks during a party conference in Lod, on July 22, 2019. (Flash90)

“I pray and wish that in the coming days we will be merited to join ranks and cause all of the right bloc to win,” Peretz said. “It is not someone’s private victory; it is a victory for our way.”

“We are carrying out very broad negotiations with all of the partners to a broad union of right-wing parties.”

Peretz is reportedly under pressure from within the religious Zionist movement to give up his leadership position and let the secular Shaked lead an alliance, an arrangement he opposes as all the other member parties are national religious movements.

Peretz and Shaked held talks Tuesday about a merger and both their parties released statements the following day insisting they are committed to reaching a deal “even by the end of the day” but accusing the other side of squandering the chances of a merger by making “unjustified demands.”

Shaked also responded to a tweet from Netanyahu spokesman Jonathan Urich, which mocked a photo of her on the front page of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

“I received my issue of the Blazer early this week,” Urich wrote referring to an Israeli male magazine inspired by the raunchy American Maxim and Esquire publications.

“I want to point out that this is the first time in Israel’s history that a woman is heading a right-wing party. Apparently [Urich] finds it hard to get used to it,” Shaked shot back.

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